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Peter Hobbs Interview

Posted on 10 December 2009. © Copyright 2004-2021 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to award winning short story writer & novelist Peter Hobbs; his first novel, The Short Day Dying, was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize, the 2007 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and won a Betty Trask Prize.

Tell us all about your writing background- what youíve written, what youíre currently writing

Iím a novelist and short story writer (though I tend to move from one form to the other, rather than doing both at the same time). Iíve published a novel, The Short Day Dying, and a collection of short stories, very different in style, called I Could Ride All Day in My Cool Blue Train. Iím just finishing (at least, this is what I tell my editor) my second novel.

How did you start writing?

It wasnít planned. I spent a long period of time in my twenties, several years in fact, recovering from an illness. And I guess many of the sacrifices writers have to make Ė creating time, space and solitude Ė were made for me. Afternoons as I was beginning to get a bit better I just sat down and wrote. There was a lot of stuff going on in my head during these years, and it came out in some odd ways. There was no plan to it, but the writing began to shape itself into short stories. And later there, after Iíd shown some of them to some people I trusted, and had some good, tough (though encouragingly so) feedback, there was a novel. That makes it sound easier than it was, of course, because writing the novel was three years of hellish struggle, but the memory of thatís been smoothed over by time. A good thing, too, or Iíd probably not be trying to do another one.

Other work besides writing; ie. Editing, dramaturgy, tutoring, and how it works for/against your own writing

In the last couple of years Iíve started to teach creative writing, which Iím really enjoying. Iíve run courses for adults, with the Arvon Foundation. But my most rewarding work is for a charity called First Story. They create residencies for writers at state schools around the country. The aim is to go into some of the least privileged schools (where lots of the kids are on free school meals, and/or where exam pass rates are low), and to run creative writing workshops for groups of 15-17 year olds.

How did you get involved with First Story?

The charity was set up by a writer, William Fiennes, and a teacher, Katie Waldegrave. Will ran a trial year in one school, then approached a few writers, including Romesh Gunesekera, Louisa Young, Rafaella Barker, Helen Simpson and myself, to ask if weíd work at a school. Not having spent any time in school since I was around that age myself, I was a bit nervous about the idea, but I thought Iíd give it a go. The scheme started in eight London schools last year, and is this year operating in fourteen schools.

The first year was a great success. Some of the schools faced a few problems along the way, particularly in getting the students to come along consistently to the workshops (which are entirely voluntary). But with the right backing from the school, once they came along they really started to enjoy their writing. Itís been the most incredible experience. In the first place, the students are amazing. Some have had very tough lives indeed, but theyíre all very cool and fun to work with, and best of all, it turns out that when theyíre given the opportunity, they all write amazingly. Watching their skill and confidence (not to mention their grades) improve over the year is one of the great pleasures of the work.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Steerpike`s sister at 16:22 on 12 December 2009  Report this post
The Short Day Dying is a beautiful book - I recommend it to WWers. Thanks for the interview!

AshtonBosisto at 13:19 on 19 November 2021  Report this post
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