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Wednesday, 14 April 2021




Special Guest - Ellie Rees

After retiring as a teacher in 2009, Ellie realised that there was more to life than gardening and so decided to become a student once more. She gained an MA and a PhD in Creative Writing from Swansea University and her work is now widely published. She writes memoir, creative non-fiction and essays but her main love is poetry. Ellie’s poems have been published in such places as The New Welsh Review, Poetry Wales, The Lonely Crowd, Black Bough Poems, The Cabinet of Heed, Trestle Ties and The Broken Spine. She has been short listed in several prestigious competitions and last year won the Selected or Neglected Competition run by The Hedgehog Press. Ellie’s first poetry collection titled Ticking is to be published in May 2021 by The Hedgehog Press. 

The poems in Ticking deep map a beautiful but apparently empty strip of the South Wales coastline that looks across the Bristol Channel to Exmoor. The collection could be classified as nature writing, though the term, deep-mapping is a more accurate description of the eclectic subject matter: there are ghosts, suicides and ruins, as well as dung spiders, stone masons and insect apprehension. Many of the poems focus on the history and geography, archaeology and wild life of a two-mile stretch of the Welsh coastline. However, the mapping in Ticking is not only confined to the tangible or material, it includes the intangible, the dreams and hopes, imaginations and fears of its residents both in the past and in the present.  

Ellie can be found on Facebook and Twitter and at

 Ellie would like the cover of her forthcoming book to look like this.

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.

Q: What is your favourite word?


A: Mellifluous. I love the gentle sound of it and the sensual challenge of pronouncing the four syllables clearly. Also, because ‘mel’ makes me think of honey (miel) the word becomes sweeter. When I looked up its meaning I found that it is also a perfect example of onomatopoeia: ‘pleasingly smooth and musical to hear’. It comes from the Latin, mel meaning honey and fluere, to flow. I like it even more now I know all this!

Q: What is your least favourite word? 

A: Gnat. What’s that ‘G’ for? You only know it’s there if you see it written down. There’s no such thing as a nat anyway; sounds like the past tense of ‘to knit’ (and that’s another daft spelling). Gnats whine and give you itchy bites.

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

A: The Young. I taught for many years at an international college. The students were a wonderful mix; many had overcome the most difficult of circumstances to get there. Some were refugees and they had all gone through a competitive process in order to win a place and a scholarship. Classes with them were nearly always exciting, stimulating and their idealism was wonderful. They kept me on my toes and I learned so much from them. Imagine the thrill of teaching Sizwe Bansi is Dead by Athol Fugard to a class that contained two students from South Africa at a time when Apartheid still was in force, one black and one white! Or, teaching Midnight’s Children when a student from Pakistan explained Partition to the rest of the class and then a student from India explained all the symbolism surrounding the Hindu deities!

Q: What turns you off? 

A: The young pretending to be bored so as to appear cool. (Didn’t happen very often.)

Q: What is your favourite song? 

A: Can’t decide between Talking Heads ‘And she was’ and ‘Never forget you’ by The Noisettes. This question led to a happy hour or two listening to ancient golden oldies. Could I go as far back as Bobby Vee, The Everly Brothers, Procol Harum? In the end I realised that all my favourites were ones that made me want to dance… on my own, in the kitchen.

Q: What is your favourite film? 

A: Dirty Dancing. Well it would be, wouldn’t it! Apart from the pleasure of watching Patrick Swayze move, all the music was from my own teenage years.

Q: What is your favourite curse word

A: Lumps of it! This was my mother’s favourite swear word when I was a child. She had been in the army during the war so probably knew a great many. I was quite a lot older before I realised what word she was trying to shield me from.

Q: What sound or noise do you love? 

A: Sleepy Owls. There are two tawny owls near my house and at night they call to each other. But they don’t sound very committed. One will give a tentative, rather tremulous ‘twit’, there’s a long pause and then the other gives a husky, half-hearted ‘twoo’.

Q: What sound or noise do you hate? 

A: Guinea fowl. Our neighbour has a flock of twenty and they get into my garden. They look very exotic but once they catch sight of me they stretch their wizened necks and make a noise like sawing metal.

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

A: Actress (actor?) To be the centre of attention, to have a captive audience listening to you, to have the chance to dress up and become someone else, what’s not to like? It’s not surprising that I became a teacher!

Q: What profession would you not like to do? 

A: Chiropodist. Your feet are usually well worn and gnarled before you need the services of a chiropodist and they are not the loveliest part of our anatomy even when young. So to have to cut, peel, shave, snip, file and massage the feet of strangers would not be my idea of job satisfaction!

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

A: ‘Not bad. Ready for another go?’

Q: Any words of encouragement for writers and writing?

A: We all get down hearted at times, especially when we receive rejections, but even if things aren’t going well there are usually alternatives:

1.     If one editor doesn’t like your work, there is at least one out there who will if you keep looking.

2.     If your poems aren’t succeeding try memoir, book reviews, prose poems, flash, even short stories. You might be a different type of writer than the one you thought.

3.     If you like to write by hand and keep note books, try instead to compose straight onto the screen and vice a versa. I’m sure the two methods of composition involve different parts of the creative brain.

4.     Music can have the same effect on your memory recall as the sense of smell. This works especially well with music you’ve not listened to for a long time.

5.     Don’t just read your work to yourself. Stand up and perform it then record it and listen. You’ll hear all the glitches, the lines that go clunk and if you’re lucky, the ones that just roll off your tongue.

6.     Still disappointed with a particular poem? Try changing its shape on the page. Change short lines to long ones and vice a versa – form patterns with matching letters. Try filling all the white space. If you still don’t like it, it’s probably no good but you have the alternative of writing another and had a bit of fun in the meantime.

Thank you for participating, Ellie.

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