Name: Ellora Sutton
Left in 2013
Current occupation: Poet/MA Student
What might you do in a typical day of work?
Being a poet is all about self-management and self-motivation, so having a sturdy routine is vital (to me, at least). I have a space dedicated just for work – a desk in my room – so that when I sit down, I’m physically as well as mentally ‘in the zone’. A day of work for me will start with reading, usually a poetry journal such as PNR, The Poetry Review,or Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal. Then I will do a bit of free writing (writing without planning, without editing, sort of like a writerly doodle). Then I will set about my main task for the day, which will either be drafting a new poem (usually using ideas, images, or phrases I’ve noted down in my phone), editing existing work (this requires close reading and annotating), or sending work out to competitions, magazines, or publishers. A typical day might also include replying to emails from editors. If I’m lucky enough, then a work day will occasionally include reading a poem at an event, such as a prize-giving.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The feeling when I see my work in print, or when I get to accept prizes (and prize money) is something that will never ever get old!
What experience and qualifications do you need to do your job?
Anyone can write poetry, and anyone can be a poet – you don’t need any set qualifications. Personally, I have a degree in Journalism and Creative Writing, and am currently studying towards a Creative Writing masters specialising in poetry, with hopes to do a PhD.
What challenges have you faced in your career so far, and how have you overcome them?
As a poet the hardest (and most common) roadblock is rejection. Magazines and journals get hundreds of submissions and might only publish 1-5% of the work they receive; competitions get 1000s and there’s only one grand winner. I’ve overcome this by growing a thick skin and not taking rejections personally – it’s all part of the process. I’ve also learnt to hold on tight to those moments of victory!
My first chapbook (like a mini collection) is coming out in September.
My next big goal is to work towards a first complete collection.
What advice you would give to current students?
My biggest bits of advice are to read lots of poetry (and not just the stuffy old dead poets), and to write every day, even if it’s just a little bit, even if it’s just a note in your phone describing something you saw or felt or tasted that day – it could come in useful later on! Also: pay attention in English! I still use lots of those close-reading and annotating techniques I learnt at GCSE, you need to be able to understand how and why a poem works.
It’s also important to have people you can share your work with, people who will be brutally honest and tell you what does and doesn’t work. Writing a poem can be a collaborative effort.
For the most part, education is what you make of it. Find what you are passionate about and pursue it, follow your obsessions. Make the most of the things that interest you.
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