Writer Interviews: Charlie Swinbourne

Writer Interviews is a series of interviews from writers aiming to inspire and inform young D/deaf and emerging writers. Writers can learn a lot from each other, by sharing their ideas and resources. Enjoy!
CharlieSwinMy first interviewee is Charlie Swinbourne, a writer and journalist who is famous for setting up The Limping Chicken, his film work (My Song, Coming Out), and his work at the Guardian.

Tell me about yourself.

I was born into a deaf family, so we used sign language or speech by equal measure. I grew up in a mix of the deaf and hearing worlds, going to mainstream school but going home to a deaf family. Seeing a bit of both worlds fed into my writing and filmmaking.

What kind of writing do you do?

I’m a journalist and a scriptwriter. In both I write about deaf culture, deaf people and issues relating to the deaf world. Some of my stuff’s serious, some of it’s more lighthearted. Basically I’m passionate about bridging the gap between hearing and deaf people.

How did you get started writing?

I enjoyed writing letters home from university and ended up writing a column for my university paper. It all snowballed from there.

What has been the biggest obstacle for you?

To be honest for every writer it’s building up enough confidence that you feel you can say exactly what you think. It’s getting to a stage where you feel your opinions and thoughts, without being reckless, are valid, and you’re willing to put them out there and stand by them no matter what.

Do you write full time or do you have a day job?

I now write four days a week. I’ve gone from having no days, and writing in my spare time, to doing half and half, to nearly being full time. That’s a process that’s taken me six years. They do say a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step – and they weren’t wrong.

If you write full time, how do you manage the financial side?

As a father of two children it’s been a big issue for me. I’ve always had to mix the unpaid work with the paid. Fortunately now, the work I’m doing is also what I love, but I’ve always had to be responsible because I’ve got to provide for my family.

How do you network?

Social networking helps a lot. I also love meeting people in person. I always find that going to screenings, meetings and events usually leads to making a new contact and very often, you find yourself keeping in touch and later working with someone as a result.

What inspires you? How do you find inspiration or ideas?

It’s hard to say. Sometimes it’s something someone says, or a scene you witness in real life that gets you thinking. My Song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKEjo9pmBA4 for example, was inspired by something I saw happen in real life that really angered me. I went away and built a story around it.

How has your deaf identity helped your writing?

It gives me something unique to bring to my work, and for that I feel thankful.  Perhaps it’s feeling different in some way to the majority of people that also gives you something you can express in your writing. For me it’s also my passion, I love the deaf world, I love deaf people, sign language, and so on and I link that to my work.

What does a typical writing day look like to you? Do you have habits or a routine?

My daily routine is a mixture of procrastination and dedicated work! I try and get as much done in the day as I can, so that I can relax in the evening. I don’t always manage it!

Do you have a special memory connected to writing?

For me it’s seeing my first short film script, Coming Out, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3ai5IVfFdE on screen for the first time. Seeing a script become a reality is a very special experience.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?

For me, it’s getting the thoughts in my head to make sense in a longer article!

And the best thing?

Expressing yourself, and what’s important to you, in a way that other people can share.

What advice would you give to an emerging deaf writer or young writer?

To be honest to themselves, to see other people’s points of view as well as their own. To look inside and outside their own experiences and then, above all, to express themselves. And I nearly forgot, to write. Get writing, make it a habit. It doesn’t have to be every day, but the more you do it, the better you become.

How can we contact you?

Website:  charlieswinbourne.com

The Limping Chicken: limpingchicken.com

Twitter: @charlie_swin

(Cross posted from Fate is Chance. Destiny is Choice.)

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