[Image courtesy of Jo Mazelis]
Mab Jones arrived at the writing party relatively late, at the age of 29, but has really made the most of it since.
The 39-year-old poet, writer, journalist, event organiser and teacher aspired to be a writer and artist from a young age, and finally started putting her goals into practice just before turning 30. One reason, she said, for not starting sooner was: “I felt very lacking in confidence, and I didn’t know how to get into writing.”
Everything changed for Mab, however, when she discovered Literature Wales’s bursaries for new writers. The Cardiff native decided to put some words together and submit them for consideration, and actually went on to be awarded a grant of £3,000 to keep writing.
“I quit my crappy job,” the writer says now. “I had to get another crappy job afterwards, mind, but I had three months free to write. I wrote a novel, and also began writing poems.”
However, it wasn’t always so easy for Mab, who wrote 80,000 words in her three months off but found it “really hard”.
“All the characters sounded the same, I didn’t have an ear for dialogue… They all sounded like me, actually. And it was hard to concentrate, I hadn’t built up that muscle yet.”
She is now writing her second novel (with her second Literature Wales bursary) and is feeling hopeful about it. What became of that first novel though? “I think it’s crap!” Mab says. “I did show it to one publisher, once, and they said it was ‘too dark’… Oops!”
Her latest poetry collection, Take your experience and peel it, is filled with gorgeous imagery and a certain familiarity, and she has now read her poetry at events over 800 times. But confidence doesn’t come naturally to the writer, who told us about her first experiences reading poetry in front of others.
“I couldn’t stop shaking. It took about 20 readings for that to stop, and about 100 for the adrenaline to hit at the right time.”
Mab’s a veteran poet by now, however, and advises new writers to embrace the fear of performing and just keep doing it anyway – it eventually becomes far less terrifying. However, she believes that advice isn’t always the best way to learn, and sometimes you have to experience things yourself in order to make mistakes and figure out how to combat them in the future. “The advice I would give, and which I give now, though, is ‘never give up'”.
The multidisciplined literature mogul doesn’t just attend poetry events, she also runs them. One venture of hers is International Dylan Thomas Day on 14 May every year, which celebrates the poet’s life and work. Mab encourages people anywhere to put on their own events in celebration of the day and to get involved. The annual day saw over 50 events take place around the globe last year, with Mab’s dedicated coordinating and marketing help.
It just goes to show that it’s never too late to start something you love, especially if you eat, sleep, and breathe it.
The company who publish Mab’s latest collection, Indigo Dreams, also run several annual poetry competitions, and you can get involved! The Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize gives you the chance to have your poetry published professionally – and you even get 25 copies for friends and family. You can find out more about the competition on their website.