When did you first know you were a writer?
I think it was when I started a performance poetry course at Battersea Arts Centre with poetry organisation Apples and Snakes. There I worked with amazing poets like Aoife Mannix and Jacob Sam La Rose and Francesca Beard who showed me how I could be a writer, how I could live as a writer. Once I started making my living as a writer, doing gigs for Apples and Snakes and school visits, it slowly dawned on me that I was a writer.
What inspired you to write If All The World Were and what is your favourite part of the book?
My picture book – If All The World Were… was inspired first and foremost by, and based upon, my poem If All The World Were Paper. The poem imagines a world of paper in the context of family and friends and emotion. I wanted to write a story that could encapsulate the feelings of the poem. For me, the poem was about the importance of family and connection. When I thought about those things, I kept coming back to childhood memories of my grandfather and what family life was like when I was young. Bit by bit, a story started to emerge that honoured my childhood memories of my grandfather and his passing.
My favourite part of the book is when the grandfather brings home a broken toy race track for his granddaughter. This is based on a very happy real memory.
Share an interesting experience you’ve had with one of your readers.
I often get sent poems that readers have written inspired by one of my own which is always an honour and a joy. One time I visited a school in Switzerland where the students had created a wall of spoon puppet versions of me with lines inspired by my poem ‘You Dress Like A Rainbow’, so all these little versions of me were stuck on the wall underneath lots of mini rainbows – it was bizarre and delightful.
How would you describe your writing style in three words?
Poetic, fantasy, feelings.
What is the best advice you’ve received?
‘What are you prepared to do that others will not?’ I forget where I heard this, but early on, this idea instilled in me the desire to work harder than anyone else, to go that extra step in all things.
What are you reading?
I’m a serial dipper into books so always have several on the go. At the moment I’m making my way through a collection of gothic short horror stories set in and around trains and train stations, at the same time I’m reading another book called The Intelligent Investor which is all about the stock market – something I’ve never really understood and wanted to be better acquainted with. I’m also listening to a third book called The Circadian Code about the internal rhythms of the body.
What are you working on now?
At present, I’m working on several picture books and my debut middle-grade series with Walker Books called Fairytales Gone Bad. Which is a slightly gruesome take on the fairytales we all know and love and is out this September.
A very special thank you to Joseph Coelho. If All The World Were… is on our book club list.
Joseph Coelho’s latest poetry collection ‘Poems Aloud’, illustrated by Daniel Gray-Barnett and published by Wide-Eyed Books is a delve into the wonderful ways in which we can bring poetry to life through 19 poems all written to be read with particular performance technique in mind.