Author Spotlight with Carl Burkitt
Carl Burkitt likes telling tales. He tells long tales, short tales, silly tales, sad tales, and tells them online, behind a mic, in books, in schools, and on the sofa with his young family. His poetry collection, What Does A Baby Think It Is? And Other Questions was published by Enthusiastic Press in 2020, followed by the pamphlet Big Bad Mike by Dreich.
Carl also has his own course, right here on Novlr, called Write to Play: Rediscover the Joy of Writing. It’s all about reconnecting with what you love about writing.
Can you tell us a little about yourself as a writer?
I try to focus on enjoying the doing rather than thinking about the end product. I’m fully aware of how quaint that sounds, but I started writing in earnest during some of the darkest days of my life.
Writing as a hobby kept me busy and reminded me to play. Play is a big thing for me. The playwright Ed Harris (the talented wally from Brighton, not the Hollywood actor) once said to me, “We were born playing. If you’re not playing, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you’re not progressing.”
Whenever I write anything, I make sure I’m playing and trying something new – no matter how small. So, to answer the question: I write silly stuff, sad stuff, boring stuff, kids’ stuff, whatever is needed at the time.
What publishing route did you choose, and why?
The first book I wrote, Living in Colour, was self-published. I’d uploaded poems and stories online for years but was keen to know how it felt to structure a book, get the pages in order, understand the flow. I wanted to experience the writing, the editing, the printing, the marketing, the sales, the distribution.
Since then I’ve had three books published through independent presses. Of course, a big press is appealing for various reasons, but indies allow you to be a part of something a bit punk, rough and ready, trial and error. You get to be involved.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I moved from London to Manchester in 2021, I found a primary school leaver’s book in a crumpled box. A lad called Craig wrote, “Good luck with your stories and stuff, Carl” and that reminded me I always wanted to write!
Unfortunately, due to a stutter and awkward lanky frame, I spent most of my time aged 12 to 25 refusing to express myself. It took a couple of family deaths and life stuff to remind me, “What’s the point of not doing what you enjoy?”
What is your writing routine?
I sit under drooping pendulas, stare at swooping clouds, and wait for the muse…only joking. I put the miles in.
I’m not a writer with natural flair or talent. I want to be a writer, so I grind at it. I study and read and attend workshops. I need structure.
Over the years I’ve found tools to keep my writing muscles flexed. It might sound over the top, but every morning I jot down a haiku on the toilet (a “haikloo”), I fill out a line in my 5-year diary, I write a 10-line iambic pentameter poem about a time I practised self-care (learnt from poet Roger Robinson), jot a silly idea down in my ridiculous “ideas journal,” and then pop a poem online each night.
Now, look, they’re all guff and I will never share anything other than the online poem, but they’re like jogging or lifting weights. They’re the foundation to keep me fit for writing books or shows. It might be a bit much for other people, but I’ve found it works for me.
Do you have any interesting writing quirks?
The poet Daniel Cockrill once said to me, “I don’t know how anyone says they’ve got writer’s block. Look at my desk, there are over a thousand poems on there.” That opened my eyes to the point of annoyance.
If I see anything – a removal van pulling up outside graveyard, a crisp floating in a bloke’s beard, a broken chair struggling to do its job – I think ‘that’s the first line of a poem’. It might not be a quirk, but I refuse to reject anything I see, or hear, or smell, as a potential jumping-off point.
How do you find your inspiration?
I guess I keep my eyes open. I fill notebooks with seemingly boring lines heard in the Co-Op. I open novels at random and pinch lines. I write poems about films I like. I rewrite songs I enjoy.
I don’t want to sound like I know what I’m doing, because I don’t, but I let the noise in, process it, and see what happens.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in the process of writing?
That you can do what you want. It’s funny, we all love books that speak to us in a unique way or stories that try something new, but when we first sit down to write, we try and follow a formula.
It took many, many years of copying other people (Tim Key, Rob Auton, John Hegley, Erin Bolens) before I realised I can do my own thing.
What do you think makes a good poem?
Crikey. Anything that makes me read it again, I reckon.
Where can people find your work?
My first book, What Does A Baby Think It Is? was published in 2020. I have a pamphlet out about Dads and men and talking called Big Bad Mike, and a children’s poetry book called Elephants Sleep in Bunk Beds. I plonk a poem on Instagram every day, have a weekly online newsletter showcasing tales I’ve seen, heard, and found, and collate all my stuff at www.carltellstales.com. You can also do my course, Write to Play, right here on Novlr!
If you’re a Novlr writer who has published a book, we’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to tell us about your work and share your writing journey with us, please email [email protected].