Benjamin F. Jones is a writing enthusiast and haiku extraordinaire. He has his own blog, Graphite Bunny, which contains a fascinating selection of poetry, prose and general musings. Benjamin is currently writing a novel called Changing Tree. It tells the story of a boy who only has one week to escape being sent to boarding school.
Can you tell me a bit more about yourself, when did you start to write?
I started writing angst fuelled poetry in my teens. I had a black book filled with rage. One night I was walking through the city. I was feeling an urge to put words on paper but I had already written about my internal anger in every combination possible. So I wrote about the snow-clogged city around me. That poem was a landmark for me, I realised I could capture a snapshot of the world.
What drives you to continue writing today?
The ability to communicate a moment and an emotion in time is what drives me on. When someone connects with one of my short stories, or a haiku, it makes it worthwhile. Sometimes I have to step back from the inevitable submission/rejection cycle which most writers go through and remind myself that publication is not everything, writing is fun.
Which writers do you admire most?
I like writers who have a touch of literary zing but still know how to drive a plot. I enjoyed Ian Banks’ early novels, they have great characters with an edge of insanity which keeps me interested. I love magical realism so Haruki Murakami is on my list of recommended reading. Ben Marcus appeals to my sense of humour. I like Bukowski’s grubby poetry and Nathalie Goldberg’s books on writing touched me as a writer.
Where do you go when you need inspiration?
Cafés and pubs are fabulous places to write. I feel like I am part of something without actually having to be involved. I love mountains
and beaches. The other place I turn to is my notepads and folders. I keep files which contain names, fragments of dialogue, character traits, descriptive phrases etc. If I get stuck I flick through the relevant files and often find the spark that sets me going. It might be the smell of new carpet, the sound of a distant street cleaner or the feel of a chestnut fresh out of its shell. It is the shove I need to get my pen moving across the paper.
What do you think of Cardiff’s literary scene?
I lived in Cardiff for a long time and miss it now I am in the Rhondda. Public transport puts the capital further away than it really is. From my remote location I miss the buzz of creativity at places like Llanover Hall, Chapter Arts, Central Library and the Museum. I also miss having access to writing classes and the Cardiff Writing Circle. I find contact and feedback from other artists is vital to my growth as a writer.
How do you use the internet? Is this another way of making contact with writers?
I have joined an online writer’s colony called Litopia as well as getting myself set up on WordPress. I have met some amazing people with similar interests through both. You get back what you put in. I have had very useful feedback on several poems and my entire novel manuscript in a way I never thought possible.
I would encourage anyone unable to attend classes or groups to join a few online groups and become an active member. Fill in your profile page and make it clear what you are looking for in terms of criticism and friends. I went looking for writing groups on the internet thinking it was the poor alternative to meetings in the real world; nothing could be further from the truth.
Benjamin’s writing, Extract from Bread and Butter
“Are those baguettes ready?” Susan shouts over the noise of the kitchen.
Oven doors open, blazing the air with the smell of sausage rolls. Craig wishes she’d chill out; he was only five minutes late. Beyond the heat lamps he can see a clamour of hunger; a queue of hospital visitors backed up past the drinks machine to the swing doors– tray to tray impatience. He smiles; not his problem. He’s buttering baguettes, a change from sliced white bread. He works fast with the knife; butter almost liquid. He glances at the clock, 5 more minutes. In his pocket he feels his phone vibrate but can’t hear it over the rattle of cutlery. Another blast from the oven. The chip fryer roars. He dumps grated cheese and salad from plastic tubs onto baguettes spread open twenty at a time. Careless. His hands sweat in the blue gloves. Time moves slow as melted cheese… Up to the hour. He slams the butter-crumb knife onto the prep-area.
Begin. Dinner snatched and spilling contents. Twenty minutes of freedom– twenty five with a whinge from Susan. The fire door is propped open with a bucket.
“Oi, where are you…”
Craig feels sunshine before she finishes. He runs onto the bank of fresh cut grass that overlooks the shuffling car park. The smell reminds him of his grandfather’s lawn. The nurses from radiology are already there with cigarettes and sandwiches.
He joins them in the ash tree’s shade and bites into his prize; it tastes of fresh broken rules.
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