This month, I realised it was about time we heard from Faye Sharpe – long-running member of 26 and all-round lovely person. If you haven’t been lucky enough to meet Faye yet, now’s your chance.
Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?
Where am I from? Now there’s a question. I’m still trying to figure that out! I was born in Toronto, Canada. I first came to the UK when I was 9 and decided this was where I was going to live. I came back when I was 15, just to confirm the decision, and moved here permanently after I finished University. So, I’ve lived in the UK for over 46 years. As for my family… well, they’re from all over the place!
Where did your love of words come from?
Stories my mother told me when I was very small. As soon as I could read, I read to her while she cooked supper. We got through quite a few books together! In my teens, my father and mother went to live and work in Iran. That started the weekly letter writing regime which only stopped in 2006 when my father passed. But by then the love of words was well ingrained.
What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?
I joined 26 in 2011. I was a business consultant for 20 years and did a lot of corporate writing, speech writing and presentation preparation for CEO’s and their boards of directors. I hated the jargon they insisted on using and a general disrespect for language and good writing. 26 gave me the opportunity to meet other writers in similar circumstances and to feel I wasn’t a lone voice facing the wrath of the red pen!
Have you been involved in any 26 projects?
Yes! I’ve been involved in many 26 Projects. Let me see… by my count 15 or so, as writer, editor and project initiator – that was 26 Atlantic Crossings where 26 writers were paired with 26 artists in Prince Edward County in Canada. You were on that project, Sophie. You were paired with painter, Joanna McFarland, my sister. And you designed our lovely little book of images and sestudes! I was very proud of that. There’s a great little video on the 26 Atlantic Crossings project page on the 26 website. I think my next most proud moment was closing the 100 Armistice project with a centena on The Unknown Warrior. All 26 projects have been memorable in so many ways, not least meeting wonderful writers and making dear friends.
What’s your ideal scenario for writing? (A coffee shop? Quiet retreat? With or without music? What do you do to get yourself in the right frame of mind?)
I write best in the morning, with my first coffee, sitting by the window looking out over the rooftops to Farnham Castle, with my laptop on my lap! I have Radio 3 on. I can’t have silence, but I can’t have people talking or lyrics. I have to listen to them and therefore can’t listen to me! Having a brief is always easier than trying to give myself one. Otherwise, I firmly believe that stories find their writers and it’s so much easier on the writer when they do! I’m delighted to say a story is making itself known to me now.
What are you working on at the moment?
We’ve just been introduced to our writers and editors for 26 Inspirations in association with the Bloomsbury Festival in October. I’m spending the next 3 weeks in Canada, so it’s a great opportunity to collaborate once again with my sister. She has the first deadline which is my return flight to the UK to bring the painting back with me! Then I get the summer to consider my response, both to the brief and to her work.
Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?
I’ve already mentioned 26 Atlantic Crossings and 100 Armistice, but a piece I wrote for myself was a true story. In the summer of 1939, my grandparents drove 7,000 miles from London to Bombay in a fourth-hand, four-door, Ford sedan with their teenage daughters, my mother and aunt. They were trying to return home to India before war was declared. They raced to cross borders before they closed. It was a story I’d heard many times in my youth, but when I found the box with the photographs, passports, maps, diaries, etc. I knew this was a story that was waiting to be told, and for me to tell it. It took 14 years research and 3 years of daily writing. I loved it. Fact is so much stranger than any fiction I can make up! Now, I’m trying to find a way to get it out there in the hope that others will love it too. At least, I hope they might think it’s a ripping good yarn!
Where do you get your inspiration?
Good question. That’s the brief for 26 Inspirations! I am by education, qualification and nature an archaeologist, so the past is always a rich source of inspiration for the investigative, inquisitive, scientific side of my nature and also feeds my always hungry imagination. The UK is full of history and antiquities, museums and galleries – crumbling, old ruins according to some – where I can fill myself up any time I want. Of course, other writers are always an inspiration, their eloquence, bravery and sense of wonder spurs me on!
– Interview by Sophie Gordon
We’ll be meeting a new 26 member each month. If you’d like to feature, or nominate another member, drop me a line firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t be shy.