A former English teacher turned freelance science writer, Larissa Reid has published poetry and prose regularly since 2016. She is a founder member of the Edinburgh writing collective, Twisted::Colon. Her piece, “Capella Rising”, can be found in EPOCH Issue 02: Aftermath, available to purchase here.
What books did you grow up reading?
As a young child, my absolute favourite books were stories set in the woods and by water – Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem, The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham, Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. I read poetry from a young age, too. I adored the warmth, the tangible spiral of language and meaning that poetry created inside me. I vividly remember the physical sensations of reading poetry as a child; I can’t have been more than 8 years old at the time. I still have my hardback copy of a book called The Child’s Book of Verse’ with illustrations by Margaret Tarrant, which introduced me to poets like Robert Louis Stevenson, Tennyson, Shakespeare, Coleridge and Blake.
My mother used to sing a lot, and folk songs and strange long ballads were often on the stereo, telling stories through rhyme and rhythm. As I got older, I became hooked on the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, and the various fantasy series’ by David Eddings, alongside the classics of Austen, the Brontë sisters, Dickens. By the time I reached university to study English and Scottish Literature, I had discovered the emerging female writers from Scotland – Ali Smith, A.L. Kennedy, Janice Galloway – and fell head over heels with their simple, powerful and honest prose that continues to inspire me to this day.
What is the most challenging aspect of your creative process?
I would say the challenge is two-fold; firstly, squeezing in creative writing alongside being a mum (it is getting easier as the kids get older!) and finding the energy to write when I also spend many hours in front of a computer for my job as a freelance science writer. Secondly, ensuring I actively seek the space and quiet to process all that I absorb (through reading, listening, observing), in the hope that it finds a route out through my own words. This is perhaps the hardest of all; feeling satisfied that you have expressed a thought in its fullest and most honest form possible, even within the constraints, distractions and forces acting on you each day. I used to get frustrated when I didn’t write for weeks or even months at time – but now, I try to tell myself that these fallow phases are nothing to worry about, that I am just taking things in and mulling them over, and that my words and thoughts will come when they are ready. It has taken a degree of pressure off to think in that way, rather than pushing myself to write creatively every day.
What does your writing space look like?
Actually, I often write outdoors! I’ll walk up the hill behind my house, up through the woods, and find a tree to lean against or a boulder to sit on. Or I’ll go down to the sand banks at low tide and walk miles along the edge of the sea whilst typing notes on my phone or scribbling in tiny notebooks. I’ve never quite got the hang of recording myself talking whilst I’m out; I tend to prefer my written voice to my spoken one. I am often to be found typing fragments of sentences and lines of poetry into my phone whilst cooking dinner, or in the car waiting for my daughters. In the evenings, when I find time, I’ll sit down and write at my desk, which is covered in photographs, rocks and fossils – I actually have two desks. One for science writing and the other for creative work!
Who is your biggest artistic supporter?
Without a shadow of a doubt, all the members of my writing group, Twisted::Colon (don’t ask where the name comes from!). We’ve been writing together for six years; before the pandemic we could be found gathered around a table in an Edinburgh pub once a month, writing and talking and drinking whisky ‘til the wee small hours. I miss that intensely – it’s intoxicating to spend quality time with other talented writers. Since Covid hit, we’ve been meeting almost weekly on Zoom, and I think I speak for all seven of us when I say that it’s kept us all going through this weird time.
I am also hugely grateful to my husband, who provides gentle encouragement mixed with honest, constructive criticism. When we moved over to Fife from Edinburgh, he went out and bought a beautiful writing desk for me. One day, I’ll write the book that is waiting to be composed at that desk.