Artist and writer Alice Lenkiewicz lives and works in Liverpool.
Her books include a poetry collection, Men Hate Blondes (origional plus, 2009) and a novella, Maxine (Bluechrome Publishing, 2005).
She also publishes and edits Neon Highway, a poetry magazine that supports emerging and established poets.
In this interview, Alice Lenkiewicz talks about the series of events that led to Neon Highway:
When did you start writing?
From a young age, I have always enjoyed writing. It was something that felt quite natural. I used to write poems as a little girl and journals and went on to become interested in writing plays.
When I was in my early 20s, I wrote my first play and went on to write two more. My first ever official positive response came after I wrote a play about Saint Catherine for a writing competition for the Oxford Touring Theatre Company. I remember feeling happy to receive a letter from them saying that it was short-listed. They sent me a very constructive, positive response. It was a lovely feeling and set me on a more focused, positive path. I wanted to continue with writing plays as a career.
I was also writing poems but I was quite reserved about reading them to anyone
How did you balance the art and the writing?
My life was always full of activity. I was creating artworks and writing as well as bringing up my children. I have always loved being a mother but it has been difficult to be a mother and artist at the same time, not just because of the work involved but because it is difficult sometimes for people to take you seriously if you are a mother as well as serious about carving out a career in art and writing but I never allowed it to hinder me. I just decided that I had chosen both and that I enjoyed both and that was it.
Art and writing have taken different rungs on the ladder throughout my life. They are each as important as the other and in many ways are now merging into one. I exhibit my work and write for publication. These are the two most important aspects of my work.
You also have a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Art and Design as well as a Master of Arts degree in Writing Studies. How did you manage to fit studying into what was an already busy schedule?
It was later in my life, after I had travelled and had my children as well as worked on my art that I decided to go on to study for a degree. I don’t remember being introduced to the academic system in a positive light as a child. School was never top priority on my childhood list of memories or experiences. I just went, learnt what was thrown at me and swiftly left on the last day. It was just not the right kind of environment for me but I coped and got on with it.
So, having left school, continued on to an Art Foundation, which I was quite lucky to get into, considering I only had about three O-levels at the time, and proceeding onwards to live quite a reckless lifestyle in London and Brighton thereafter, I decided to begin my academic training in a new light, and get a good job.
I studied with the Open University in Sussex, at the same time studying bookbinding at Brighton Polytechnic while also studying a City & Guilds in Library and Information all of which landed me a permanent library assistant full time job at Oxford Brookes University.
I had my children in Oxford and went and did my nine to five work which, to be honest, did not make me happy. I was not suited to this kind of routine. Eventually, I could not cope any longer and I decided to go on and take my degree in English and Art at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk.
I was heavily pregnant at the time so little time for me to worry about where I was going to study. I just said “yes” and decided to look no further.
I am glad I made that choice. The college opened up new doors for me at the time. It was the lecturer and poet, Robert Sheppard who threw a creative writing lifeline to me. I was interested in the way I was being taught about poetry and that was what I needed in order to find my own voice in writing. Suddenly, I felt, I had landed in the right place, surrounded by people who interested me.
It was on the BA that I learnt about the traditions of poetry as well as other more experimental ways of expressing and writing poetry and that was the path I followed, eventually setting up my own poetry magazine, Neon Highway and providing me with the opportunity to publish and support other writers.
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