This month, I got to know Lucy Furlong – from her earliest writing memory, through to her thoughtful work inspired by walking and a sense of place.
We’ll be meeting a new 26 member each month. If you’d like to feature, or nominate another member, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t be shy.
Tell us a bit about yourself – where are you from and what do you do?
I am a writer, poet and walking artist. I teach creative writing and English language and literature to all ages and at all levels, as well as edit and mentor people through writing projects, from poetry collections to flash fiction and novels. I live in Tolworth, on the edges of Greater London and Surrey and mostly spend my time home-educating my son, who is 12, as well as running my business and walking. That keeps me pretty busy!
Where did your love of words come from?
I’ve written stories and poems for as long as I can remember. I’ve got the first poem I remember writing when I was five. I was a bookworm and had an ever-changing library under my pillow, often reading six books at the same time – Peter Pan, Little Women, What Katy Did and The Diddakoi were childhood favourites, as well as Laing’s fairy tales, which are still on my bookshelves now. My mother used to give me books to read at certain points, so I got The Hobbit on my 9th birthday, and 1984 and Brave New World on my twelfth. I always wanted to be an artist and my focus was on drawing and painting, so my acknowledgement of being a writer came along very late, even after I’d been in a band writing songs and getting publishing and royalties! I finally realised after being commissioned to write, produce and present a 13-part radio series on shoes, called The Shoe Show, which was broadcast on Resonance FM back in 2006. That was when the penny finally dropped…I was 36!
What made you join 26? And how long have you been a member?
My friend Lisa Andrews alerted me to 26 after she became involved. I had seen a tweet of hers which I think led me to her wonderful piece of writing about an elephant, part of a 26 project. I’ve been a member for a year and a half.
Have you been involved in any 26 projects?
I feel very fortunate to have been invited by Lisa to be part of last year’s amazing Armistice project. I chose to write about Annie Kenney, the working-class suffragette, and was lucky enough to be filmed reading my centena at the Imperial War Museum. This year I am a writer in residence for one day at The Bloomsbury Festival.
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?)
Anywhere really, from the top deck of the bus, coffee shop, hotel room, train, even in the midst of a walk. I’ve always written wherever I’ve been and sometimes on whatever is close to hand – so it could be an eyeliner on a bus ticket – although I’m a bit more organised and ready to write these days! My best time to write is early in the morning, at my dining room table with a cup of black coffee but it doesn’t always work out like that, especially as the mother to a now almost teenage son.
What are you working on at the moment?
My current project, Sward, is a walk down the central reservation of the A240 from Tolworth Roundabout to the border with Surrey. I have been walking up and down this narrow strip of grass, wild flowers and trees, from May to October. As well as documenting the walks with photos, I plugged myself into an audio version of the Victorian naturalist and writer Richard Jefferies’ proto-dystopian novel After London. I am now writing poems about this nature corridor, which will be published in a chapbook by Sampson Low on Halloween. I will also be giving a conference paper on this project at the Walking’s New Movements conference at Plymouth University at the beginning of November, and giving a performance related to it at a Writers’ Centre Kingston event at The Rose Theatre on December 10th.
Could you tell us about a piece of writing you’re particularly proud of?
I was commissioned by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) to write a feature for their member magazine, Countryside Voice. This was about the local greenbelt at Malden Manor, the site of Millais’ famous painting, Ophelia, which I had previously written about in the form of my second poetry map, Over the Fields. Also, the press pack I put together for Over the Fields is now taught, along with a poem, Hogsmill Tiddlers, and an interview I gave, as part of a module called Writer in the World, which is part of the Open University’s MA in Creative Writing.
Where do you get your inspiration?
My writing is mostly inspired by walking, to the point where I have become known as a walking artist. A combination of interests in experimental writing, especially poetry, and how to represent space and time on paper alongside experience and memory, means my work is inextricably bound up with how we experience places and what they mean to us. As my writing has developed this has become more and more about climate change and valuing our diminishing local green spaces, which in Tolworth are under constant threat of development.