Jamie Delves has just won the 26 Emerging Writer Award. Sophie Gordon caught up with Jamie about the search for stimulating work post graduation and how block rocking rhythm unlocks imagination.
Firstly, congratulations! How does it feel to be an award-winning writer, and what have you done with your unique prize?
Thank you. Thank you. I guess disbelief really. Imposter syndrome! It feels truly flattering. I’m very grateful, and I’m happy about what it symbolises.
Currently it’s sitting on my auntie’s old chest-of-drawers in my bedroom at my parents’ house. I rushed off on a trip to the states just a week after winning the award, and I’m still here now. I’m answering my questions from Seattle. When I get back, the day after tomorrow, I think the printing block prize will have to adorn that same bedroom wall, joining two old wooden apple crates mounted there in a sloping diagonal line. It’ll neighbour the parchment it inked, which will be framed.
It sounds like you’ve been very busy since graduating. Could you tell us a bit about what you’ve been getting up to on the writing front?
Well, there have been concentrated episodes. But I’ll stress, for the benefit of those, too, struggling through the cold hours just after graduating, it’s been patchy.
However, not too long after graduating, Gillian Colhoun, the design writer, got in touch with a gig I could help on for an Irish brand out of Dublin, which hoped to revitalise their historic fish and chip industry. It was launched by Musgrave, Ireland’s largest grocery distributor, and would furnish small family-run shops with a new commercial outfit. My part was decorating the A4 sheets of greaseproof paper that piles on the counter with rhymes, anecdotes and quaint archival photographs. That whole campaign ended up winning an award for Slater Dublin with The Institute of Creative Advertising and Design.
And what are you doing at the moment? What would an average day be like for you?
My average is currently in transit. It was go to work, socialise, sleep. Do again. Every five days think about career. Right this moment – it’s holiday/ spend time away/ enjoy this trip I’ve been planning for ages. But when I get back it’s finding a flat to move into in Edinburgh’s New Town with my university friend Imogen and working there remotely on a job coming in from London, and a little local project, too.
As an emerging writer, it can be tricky to gain experience and find your way at first. Has that been your experience? Do you have any tips for other writers when starting out?
Get a job. I’m not being flippant. Leaving university and searching for stimulating work is both alienating and inconsistent. Something that can aid with you a little structure, a social framework, and something to lubricate your pocket and keep your parents from having to provide your drinking money. There is still time to organise exciting job opportunities for yourself on the side of a 35-hour working week.
What inspires you?
Conversation. Testing my perceptions of reality. I need to be reading good books and watching good films all the time, otherwise I grow torpid and subdued. It’s homework for the job; my imagination needs feeding. Oh, and, of course, block rocking rhythm. If I don’t have earphones in, or I’m not humming awkwardly and off-pitch to myself, then my internal soundtrack is pumping away.
Is there a piece of writing that you are most proud of?
I’m always most happy writing poetry, really. It keeps spring and metre in my other writing, too. I have quite a lot of poetry that I’m pretty happy with. I hope that’s okay to say. Celebrate your virtues and merits! After my teenage sweetheart and I broke up in my second year of university I wrote a 75-page collection of 13 poems, with accompanying notes at the end explaining the obscure literary allusions and references to rap music and religion. I’m still pretty proud of that.
What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading the Ulysses of the southern gothic, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. And a bit of non-fiction side-action: The Art of Living by Thich Nhat Hanh, a highly esteemed global spiritual leader and Buddhist monk.
One more – what are your plans for the next six months?
Well, first I have a move on my hands. Then I’m down in Leeds for two weeks doing an internship. I’ll have some work rolling out from a new contract once I’m back, which is promised to run for some time, and I have a deadline to meet in early December. I’m fixing up a couple of meetings in London over the next couple of weeks, so I’m going to need a third foot to keep