Since retiring from her busy teaching job in 2015 Kathleen Strafford has completed an MA in Creative Writing at Leeds Trinity University and published her first collection of poetry.
The collection, Her Own Language, is a sequential journey depicting Kathleen's life. Reviewers have said it's 'jazzy with nostalgia, jiving its way through sex, love and death by way of wet dreams and weird asides.' It's about the delirium of beautiful things.
Bestselling author and PhD candidate at Leeds Trinity Liz Mistry said: "Strafford's poetry sings to women. It is perceptive and challenging. The words just seem to flow from her, forcing the emotions to erupt. It is rhythmic and beautifully poignant. It is laugh out loud and deeply moving. It is life and death. Love these poems."
We caught up with Kathleen to find out more.
When did you start writing?
I started writing seriously in the early 90s at Kent State University majoring in English Education. I taught English in Ohio for a year, and then moved to the UK in 1998. I continued to teach supply and eventually achieved a PGCE to gain a permanent teaching position.
I never stopped writing, but found it quite difficult with all the responsibilities of creating lesson plans, resources and marking, as well as taking care of my family. Since retiring, and freeing up time, I've gained an MA, and now have a collection published. It's quite amazing really.
What made you want to complete an MA in Creative Writing?
I enrolled as a student at Leeds Trinity to improve my writing, network, and get a book published. I chose to study at the University because I read Gill Lambert's poem in Interpreter's House, where I was also published. I contacted her and she'd completed the Creative Writing degree and spoke highly of it.
What was your experience of the MA?
I would highly recommend Leeds Trinity University. The tutors are brilliant, plus you meet talented and friendly like-minded people. The tutors Amina, Oz and Martyn are amazing poets, editors and writers. Oz is an amazing tutor, and my group of MA students still meet for workshops. They are all so talented, and I thank goodness I found them. Plus I've made friends with other writers on the course including poets Hannah Stone and Gillian Lambert, best-selling crime writer Liz Mistry and journalist Andrea Hardaker, four women who I simply adore and admire.
What are you working on now?
Currently I'm working on a new collection called In the Beginning was Lilith (Women Who Changed Everything)'. Some characters' voices are from literature, others cultural figures from real life including Janis Joplin; Guinevere; Betty Page; Dr Mortimer Grandville; Roza Robota; Blanche Dubois; Ophelia; Lady Macbeth; Lady Godiva; Daisy Buchanan and others.
Have you performed your work in public?
I have regularly attended open mic nights at WordSpace, Leeds Trinity's Open Mic Night in Leeds, and WordClub in Headingley. I headlined in Harrogate in February with Prose, Poems and Pints; WordClub at the Chemic in March; Shaken in Sheeptown in May, as well as being interviewed for Five Towns Radio. I've also been interviewed by Summit Radio in Akron, Ohio.
In September, I'm starting an open mic session at the Miners Arms, Morley in Leeds, every second Sunday of the month. One of my first headlines is poet Hannah Stone, who also completed Leeds Trinity's MA in Creative Writing.