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Spotlight: Cathy Galvin

Birmingham | News | Published:

After working as a journalist for thirty years, what could possibly possess you to release a debut poetry pamphlet?

Cathy Galvin is the associate editor at Newsweek, a former journalist and editor at The Sunday Times, with work published in The Financial Times, the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph and The Irish Examiner: "These are baby steps for me, towards another truth. It's taken me a lifetime to realise that the voice of literature is not owned by the establishment."

Born in Coventry, the daughter of an Irish mother and Irish-Yorkshire father, Catholic, and working class, she faced the impact of the IRA bombings on both Birmingham and her hometown head on.

Cathy's mother died when she was 11, she left home at 18 and moved away from Coventry, although she describes it as a place 'in my heart as much as the more sublime landscapes of my parents' homes'.

After her father's death three years ago, she signed up to 'come home' and do an MA at the University of Warwick. "The coming home is still important to me. It breaks my heart that there's no-one there anymore. Like many, our family passed through but I am still rooted in Coventry: the light, the air, the home-ness of it."

Another reason you may have heard of Cathy Galvin is her tirelessly brilliant work in founding and helping to build The Word Factory, the UKs leading promoter of short fiction writers. While working at The Sunday Times as deputy editor of their magazine, she founded the newspaper's acclaimed short story award. After seeing how 'utterly captivated' an audience could become in response to a good story she came up with the idea: "I wanted to have live readings, on a website leading to other works by that author."

Two years ago, free from The Sunday Times, she set about making that vision a reality based in a small bookshop in Soho. "Everything else The Word Factory is about: The team, the master classes and the short story club have grown organically from that," she explains.

There are exciting plans for The Word Factory in 2015, including publishing short stories (both online and as an e-book), streamlining the website to feature more filmed footage of live events, and also a new initiative aiming to unearth and support more emerging writers from around the country. This new initiative reflects the dedication to new writers shown through the project's apprenticeship scheme which has run successfully for two years. In year one Stella Duffy and Alex Preston mentored the first two lucky writers, while year two sees Adam Marek and Nicholas Royle take two under their wings for six months' worth of one-to-one guidance, access to literary agents, free entry to all of The Word Factory master classes and salons, as well as a £250 Waterstones voucher.

So, did her work with The Word Factory get Cathy's creative urge flowing and push her to work on her poetry?

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"Without a doubt. The transition from journalist to poet is a little odd to say the least. Writing isn't simply a craft it's a vocation. It isn't done for money: Something far more vital is to play and be played for."

This brings us to Black and Blue, Cathy's debut poetry pamphlet. "It is a crown of sonnets, which has fifteen linked sonnets with repeating lines: It's a classic form. That sounds archaic. It isn't. It forces you to dig deep beyond yourself." The pamphlet is addressed to her father who died a few years ago and spent most of his adult life as a machinist in the factories of Coventry. It is a breath-taking collection of work and immediately sets her out as an exciting new voice in the long tradition of great English poetry, this coming from someone who is very much 'still learning' is a startling achievement.

2015 looks to be another landmark year for Cathy Galvin, she plans to release her first full collection of poetry, along with completing her MA. She is also working on fiction pieces and continuing her assiduous work with The Word Factory, based at its hub of activity – her bedroom.

One thing is for sure, whatever Cathy does next will involve further freeing the literary voice which has served the establishment for so long.

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