Last year Central Saint Martins Short Courses tutor, Joanna Pocock, was the winner of the Fitzcarraldo Editions Essay Prize. In today’s blog Joanna takes over to talk about her Writing Journey…
Joanna Pocock, ©Dinah Wood

Joanna Pocock. ©Dinah Wood

Writing can take you places…

When I started writing my book Surrender in 2014, I had no idea I was writing an actual book. I had just moved from East London to Western Montana. By being in an unfamiliar space, seeing a different sky, watching the light travel across strange landscapes, I had found a new subject. I began writing about what was around me: wolves, bison, hunters, scavengers, environmentalists and rewilders. I began chasing these stories. The land and the words forming inside me started to influence each other, they intermingled in a way I had never imagined possible. The essays I was writing were finding homes in literary journals and magazines – from the Nation (America’s oldest weekly magazine) to the L.A. Times, from Orion to the Dark Mountain blog and beyond. My work was becoming its own landscape, rippling out into the world.

Western Montana, where Surrender was written. ©Joanna Pocock

Western Montana, where Surrender was written. ©Joanna Pocock

Life brought me back to London where I realised my essays about the American West were part of a larger whole. I reworked them into a book: Surrender: Mid-Life in the American West. I now had a manuscript and Fitzcarraldo Editions were looking for a winning piece of writing. They found it in my book-length essay. The Bookseller wrote that, “Pocock’s entry, Surrender, triumphed in the independent publisher’s annual competition for unpublished British and Irish writers, which rewards the best proposal for a book-length essay.”

Mood board and research material for Surrender, in my studio in Spoleto. . ©Joanna Pocock

Mood board and research material for Surrender, in my studio in Spoleto. ©Joanna Pocock

I received an advance towards publication and a residency in Spoleto, Italy. While living in the Mahler & LeWitt Studios in Italy, I completed my final edit in the artist Sol LeWitt’s sunlight-filled studio in the Umbrian hill town. The resulting manuscript, Surrender is to be published in the UK on May 16, 2019 and will be illustrated with photographs from my writing journey.

Writing really does take you places…

The view from Spoleto, Italy where I was writer in residence. ©Joanna Pocock

The view from Spoleto, Italy where I was writer in residence. ©Joanna Pocock

I am thrilled that my writing journey has led me to Fitzcarraldo Editions, a publisher with an impressive array of awards under their belt. Founded only five years ago, Fitzcarraldo focuses on ambitious, imaginative and innovative writing, both in translation and in the English language and their authors have won a Nobel Prize, a Man Booker Prize among other distinctions. According to the New Statesman, “Fitzcarraldo Editions is probably the most exciting publishing house in the UK right now.”

A selection of Fitzcarraldo's books. ©Joanna Pocock

A selection of Fitzcarraldo’s books. ©Joanna Pocock

It was winning the Fitzcarraldo Prize that led me to set up the Life Writing and Writing Life Short Course as part of CSM Short Courses. I have been teaching at CSM since 1999 and have also taught at Bath Spa University, Roehampton University, CAPA and the 406 Writer’s Workshop in Missoula, Montana. I bring a global perspective and a diverse outlook to both my writing and teaching. I am fascinated by the overlaps and intersections between Fiction and Non-Fiction and how the techniques of powerful prose are embedded in both forms.

Several of my students have gone on to win awards and secure publishing contracts. Two of my past students, Anniki Sommerville and Season Butler have books coming out this year. Their writing journeys started in my Beginners Creative Writing class!

Wow, what a journey, and what inspiring motivation to see Joanna, Anniki and Season do so amazingly well! Feel like starting your creative journey? Whether you’re just starting out or already working on your first novel, short story or memoir, there are spaces available to book right now upon Joanna’s Beginners Creative Writing and Creative Writing For Beginners short course; you can also follow Joanna on Twitter, @joannaofottawa.