Congratulations on being awarded the 2015 CLiPPA Award for Werewolf Club Rules!
How does it feel to be a CLPE winner along with other great children’s poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, John Agard and Jackie Kay?
Whilst I write this, I have windows open on the internet with search results for interviews and documentaries with writers I love, this has always been a favourite past-time and that at least feels no different. I've always wanted to be a writer and to make a success at it, and I still do. Winning the CLPE Poetry award is amazing and to be in such fine company is humbling but as someone who hasn't won anything before (come close but no dice) I have quickly realised that winning is the dressing on the salad, the hunger to do better, go further, "arrive" never leaves and I don't think it ever should. Winning has been a great, beautiful indication that I'm moving in the right direction - but I feel exactly the same... I want to keep writing and striving and reaching an audience.
What inspired you to first start writing poetry for children?
As a teen I found that writing was a necessary way of expressing the feelings and frustrations and worries that I had pent up inside - it was a way for me to make sense of emotions and to use them to put something positive and potentially of use to others, into the world.
Out of all your amazing poems in Werewolf Club Rules are there one or two poems that mean a lot to you? If so which ones and why?
MISS FLOTSAM - means a lot to me. It describes a teacher who goes beyond their job remit to help a student - I've had teachers like that, teachers that have helped me and I've met teachers like that in my adult life. Those teachers that go that extra mile, that realise that the true job is not written anywhere but instead felt in the heart, they are my complete heroes.
IF ALL THE WORLD WERE PAPER - is a poem that took a long time to bring into the world, I went through so many versions and drafts and complete re-writes but when I had finished it felt absolutely finished. Out of all my pieces this one seems to move many people. I am so very grateful for its ability to bring me closer to my audience and to my readers, it's a tool by which we're able to share and I feel privileged to share those moments with others.
You spend alot of time travelling to schools across the UK giving workshops to pupils, do you have a top tip you give to young poets?
The world of a young person is so rich for poetry because so much is new, you're learning about yourself and friendships and change, be it within yourself or the world around you. I would advise a young poet to take inspiration from the discoveries they make, from the feelings they feel and the experiences they have.
Don't worry about your writing being good or bad... all such considerations are nonsense, just focus on expressing yourself through the words and when you finish read it through and let it settle, ask yourself if each word is where it should be? Challenge yourself to add layers in your poems, add riddles, add jokes... build the poem like you would a castle, give it a tower but also give it a dungeon.
Your prize for winning the CLPE award was £1,000 and a specially designed handbound copy of Werewolf Club Rules! Do you have any plans on what you are going to spend your prize money on?
I have already begun spending it - I have treated myself to a snazzy desk tidy that will lift my computer monitor to a more workable height and provide a tray to hold my manuscripts whilst I re-draft... this may sound a little naff but I cannot express how excited I am about this piece of stationary magic!
I do... watch this space.
Do you have an all time favourite poet that has inspired you over the years?
Michael Rosen - he's my earliest recollection of seeing poetry performed. I find his observations to be spot on and his ability to make poetry accessible to all a delight. I was recently reading 'You tell me" featuring poems by both Michael Rosen and Roger McGough (another favourite of mine)- I couldn't stop laughing out loud as so many of the poems bring to mind wonderfully familiar family situations. Both Michael and Roger are also able to slam you with a poem that hits a nerve, gets you thinking and asking questions.
Could you tell us one thing that most people do not know about you? Maybe a secret hobby?
I am a little bit obsessed with gardening - I have an allotment and am big on organic gardening and growing heirloom varieties, that is, varieties of vegetables that are not commercially grown but have instead been passed through generations one gardener to the next. At the moment I'm growing purple peas and have set up a watering system that uses solar pumps - I can't lie... I am extremely proud of myself :P.
You can find out more about Jospeh here: