Posted in Promoting Books, Promoting Poets & Artists

📖INTERVIEW: “Poems from a Runaway” by Ben Westwood

small_version_of_front_cover__blogFollow the true story of a young teenager running away from home at the age of nine, in a premature search for independence. – In poetry.

Making choices that often only a young mind would make, Ben tells his story and memories of being in the social services system from eleven years old, as well as 1990’s London street life, as a missing runaway sleeping rough.

From angels, predators, shocking times to heart-warming moments, Musician and now debut author Ben Westwood gives an insight into the mind of a rebellious-spirited youngster trying to find his own way in the world.

To pre-order or read some samples, go here.
(Soon to be released on Amazon!)

Hello there, Ben! It’s wonderful to be chatting with you about your 60-poem poetry collection, “Poems from a Runaway.” To kick this interview off, I’d like to ask you about the source of inspiration that brought this entire book into fruition.

Well, to a lot of people it’s a sad story, but for me it’s just reality. But my childhood, I suppose. My journey just wasn’t normal, but at the same time, it could have happened to anyone, and it does.

I grew up in a former mining town in Staffordshire, in the West Midlands of the UK. It had once been a bustling town full of cheerful miners happy to provide for their families, but when I grew up there, all the pits had been closed down, so it turned into a somewhat depressing nowhere town for a while, where people just drank and fought. Even the neighbours were often at each other’s throats.

There’s a lot more to it than that, but I won’t give away too much just yet. However, at some point, my life had gotten a bit lonely and I ended up running away from home at the age of nine, and going missing for weeks—sleeping out and stuff. By the age of thirteen, I had gone through three foster care placements and was living on the streets, halfway down the country, in London.

The whole book is not only inspired from some of the childish and naïve choices that I’d made being the young lad I was, but also the cases of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not often enough that you find people that really step out of the box to make a deep-felt impact on the lives of people living out on the streets. I was lucky enough to meet a lot of beautiful people, as well as go through some stuff that a lot of people might find shocking.

My important teenage years though, until I was around late sixteen, were often spent sleeping in doorways and begging on the streets of Central London. The story isn’t just about me, lying to everyone about my age and making up fake names to stay undetected by the police or anyone that might have informed on me, but the whole other world that had been opened up that I’d like to share, through the eyes of the young person I was.

All of that sounds highly intriguing, and it’s amazing that you’re bringing awareness to such an important matter. What you went through may have had its challenges, but now you’re using what you learned to inspire others, or at least help them through their difficult times. I feel like you’ve already depicted your journey quite a bit to us, but I’d like to know a little bit more about your journey from a creative standpoint.

Mainly, I’ve been known by people for my music. For many years, I was a street entertainer and would play my own songs on the street with a guitar, as well as a few popular classics. For some reason I seemed to love the feel of a lot of the old Ska and early Bob Marley sort of stuff. A lot of people tend to hear that sound out of me the most, but I perform all sorts… It’s a real big mix-up of styles.

During the late part of 2016, I decided I was going to start writing down my memoirs in poetry, and then not too long after, decided to make a whole book. A few of my friends that have heard some of my stories said I should write a book about it all, and I tried to write it normally as in a novel but it just wasn’t working for me.

Not only did it start to get a bit boring, sometimes going on about myself and then reading it again, but I’d often be unaware of how reliving some of the moments would malfunction me, and then I’d simply stop writing. But getting it all down into poetry, for me, was a completely different ball game. I was enjoying focusing on making nice-sounding rhymes and fitting sentences together so I could speak them musically. I even got prepared during the darkest of the poems, for a big malfunction to happen, and had planned to take a couple of weeks out if I needed to. But I never did need to… I was enjoying it all far too much.

So now, in mid-December, when the first edition of “Poems from a Runaway” is printed, I guess I will be an actual self-published author. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve really enjoyed it.

People like me often don’t get the chance to go to university because we’re so pre-occupied with just keeping ourselves going due to limited support and messed up circumstances. But in this day and age, the internet has completely changed that for a lot of people, and I feel really lucky to have learned so much, and thankful for all of the people putting the free information out there on how to make things happen.

It certainly hasn’t been easy writing this book. It’s perhaps one of the hardest things I’ve ever really done and dedicated myself to. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it every step of the way.

Wow. You’ve definitely been through a lot to get to this current point. How inspiring! This goes to show that dark times don’t have to define us for the rest of our lives. So, to get a little more specific here, what themes pop up in this book?

Family conflict, drug addicts, prostitutes, Central London, Piccadilly Circus, homeless people, bag ladies, bizarre events, angels, predators, mental health, and social services.

You sure cover a lot of ground! Sounds like quite the impactful read. Ever since you started your journey as both a musician and a writer, I’m sure you’ve run into several muses (at the very least)… Who are your muses? Or what are they?

Artists that talk about the real stuff going down, without trying to be all gangster about it. I’ve also had a massive flavour for UB40 over the last few years since I’d brought one of their more recent albums from a charity shop. I couldn’t stop listening to it. There’s some real truth in those lyrics.

My first biggest inspiration in music was definitely John Lennon. I’d got somewhat obsessed with The Beatles at age seven or eight because of a school play that we did about the sixties.

Definitely Bob Marley who of course speaks with the voice from us all.

And the ex-England goalkeeper David Seaman was a big impact on my childhood. He was my icon in my early years growing up playing football.

It’s safe to say you’ve been fueled by a ton of inspiration along the way. So, imagine you’re sitting down to write right now. How do you tend to go about it? I know it may depend, so suppose this is an ideal situation.

I like to keep myself busy often, and because I’ve got heaps of half-finished projects here and there with “Poems from a Runaway,” I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of me completing it, so I went at it like a steam train.

Sometimes everything flowed out reasonably easily, and then other times, I was spending a couple of hours trying to make the end line or two of a poem fit nicely into the piece. And lots of speaking it out to myself… I’m sure the neighbours must think I’m full-blown nuts.

But yeah, I pretty much write until I can’t write anymore, or until I know I need a break. During my breaks, I go and make another drink, have a stretch, and maybe five minutes of light exercise to get my back and spine feeling comfortable again. And then I watch a bit of YouTube or something, and catch up some rest—usually at some really embarrassing hour where I think everyone thinks that I’m being anti-social.

If I didn’t do it that way, it would have never gotten finished.

I love how down to earth you are. Your creative process showcases that wonderful quality. We had touched on themes a bit already, but I’d like to delve into that more deeply. Did you have any particular aims in mind, or messages you wanted to send out when writing this book?

When I first started writing this book, my main thoughts were to document some of the characters I’d met along the way. However, the more I kept writing for the book, the more reasons I had felt I wanted this to get complete.

I want families to see past all the needless drama that too often divides them. I wish that when it’s like that, people can see that being there for each other can be prosperous. Unfortunately, not everyone sees that, and today, twenty years on, there seems to be many more sixteen or seventeen-year-olds walking the London streets. So it’s obviously a problem that isn’t getting any better.

Also, I wanted to highlight some of the things that people end up finding out about themselves while living on the streets. It can be really saddening what people have to put up with out there at times, but also, there were some really beautiful moments too.

“…being there for each other can be prosperous.” That’s definitely going to stick with me for a long time. However, I’m afraid we’re reaching the end of this interview… But before I officially wrap things up, do you have any final thoughts that you’d like to leave the community with?

Yeah, a message to the world: Let go of your grudges. There is strength in forgiveness. There is treasure in love.

Those are the perfect concluding words. Thank you so much, Ben! May any creative endeavor you take on yield success. 💚


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Posted in Promoting Books, Promoting Poets & Artists

📖INTERVIEW: “Our Awakening” by Sanja Ignjatic📖

^Click to purchase!

Our Awakening takes each reader on a transformative quest through an array of vital life lessons. These snippets of inner and outer discovery in rhyming verse showcases a powerhouse of wisdom that jolts the depth of one’s soul wide awake. Through Sanja’s meticulous use of alliterative diction, flowing stanzas, and enchanting metaphors, this awakening of the sixth sense accumulates momentum poem by poem. Both thought-provoking and equally as eloquent, poet Sanja Ignjatic invites you to lose the notion of all things trivial, so you can reveal the gems of compassion, empathy, awareness, and boundless love.

Good afternoon, Sanja! I’ve had the pleasure of editing your beautiful, spirit-lifting book, “Our Awakening,” and now I have the pleasure of interviewing you about it, granting others the opportunity to peer into your world a bit. The title itself is highly spiritual, so I do feel inspiration definitely stems from there. But what else inspired you?

For a long time, I’ve had the will to share and express my thoughts about some topics that are important for all of us. The main source of inspiration for expressing myself and for this book is beautiful Mother Nature and spending time in the great outdoors. In changing my surroundings for a while and communing with nature, I felt like I was born again. Some new channels were opened and I felt like I was truly awake.

After coming home, I read “The Celestine Prophecy” a second time. During my first read, this amazing book changed my life. And it changed my life even more the second time around. It made me do what I feel I have to do; what I feel is my life path. Poem by poem, and story by story, I started to write, expressing my soul in a way that made me truly happy and fulfilled. In the end, I finished my debut poetry book “Our Awakening,” with nine poems that are written in rhyming verses and hold important messages within them.

Mother Nature really is a major inspiration for a lot of creative minds (mine included). I’m glad you got so much out of being surrounded by Gaia’s energy, but I’m in no way surprised. Also, in reading other books, we definitely become inspired to write our own. So, we all have unique journeys as poets, and I’d like to know what your creative journey has been like so far.

Well, my writing journey hasn’t been a very long one yet. I hold a Master’s degree in Geology and after I graduated, I worked for a few years in my profession. It was really interesting work but something inside me wasn’t completely satisfied. I wanted to do something else.

Now I see that, in a way, my soul was starting to awaken. So I changed my work to something completely different. I started to design products and various publications that focus on topics like culture and historical heritage and the importance of nature, ecology, and animal care.

And then two years ago, I started to write my first book. Initially, I wrote this book in my native language, Croatian. I then made an English version of the book, “Unique Tourist Guide of Croatia.”

About a year later, I started to write this new title “Our Awakening,” which expresses the deepest part of myself. Upon finishing it, I have started to write another book. So my writing journey started, let’s say… recently. But now, I feel like I must continue this interesting and fulfilling journey to make it a legacy. 🙂

You may have just recently started, but that’s quite the journey already! So, you touch base with a ton of themes in “Our Awakening.” What would you say are the main themes in this poetry collection?

My book consists of nine different themes. They are also subtitles in the book and they are following:

1. Story Called Love
2. Our Awakening
3. Positive Thoughts
4. Wearing Masks
5. Expectations and Acceptance
6. Nature
7. Animals
8. Our Environment
9. Awareness

Excellent! Theme #4 and #5 were the most intriguing ones to me when I was editing them. Another thing I must ask you (because writing without them is nearly impossible): Who are some of your poetry muses?

I definitely have one muse and that is my dog Nusha. She is my inspiration, she is my love, she is my soul. I’m very, very grateful that she is the part of my life and I can thank her for so many things, like developing me into a better person, helping me in difficult situations, sharing happy moments with me, and making certain moments happier. She actually makes an appearance in my first book, in this book, and in my forthcoming book. So yes, my muse is the magnificent soul, Nusha. 🙂

I love that your dog is your muse, and that you called her a magnificent soul! So, when you sit down to create, how do you go about it? Are there certain things you have to do, or do you simply let the words flow wherever/whenever?

My writing process starts with a general idea about a book, about the topic, and about the aim I want to achieve with the certain book. When that happens, a sense of great joy overcomes me and I start to write. In the process of writing, I’m usually getting more ideas. For example, how to write the end of the book, how to design the book, what kind of photos or illustrations to put inside it, and more. That all occupies my mind a lot and in that process, I’m 100% in it.

When I take a little break from writing, I like to spend time out in the nature, to be surrounded with people that fill my soul, and of course, spend time with Nusha. They fill me and I’m getting more inspiration for doing what I have imagined. My style of writing where I found myself is in writing rhyming verses. Writing in rhymes is something that I prefer and that makes me really happy. When I achieve some strong or funny verse, I feel like my soul is dancing. So for me, writing is like a beautiful dance that makes me truly fulfilled.

That’s so beautiful, Sanja. Writing really is a form of figurative dance. Before I give the community some purchase links for your book, I was wondering if you had anything else you wanted to share with everyone.

Yes, I do. I will remain dedicated to the messages within “Our Awakening.” It is especially important as more of us awake our souls. I wrote my thoughts, which I truly believe are coming from the deepest part of my soul; from the part that is pure and divine; from the part that we all have.

To recognize some of the thoughts from the book and to further awaken somebody’s soul… Those would be my goals with this book. As more of us become truly awake, we can change so many things for the better. Altogether, we can create miracles, and I believe that is our aim on this beautiful Earth station. Maybe it’s not so easy to start awakening, but when we start, there is no return in this wonderful process, and that’s what’s truly precious. 🙂

Your words ring so true and are extremely inspirational. Thank you very much, Sanja. Best of luck in everything that you do! 😀 ❤


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Posted in Promoting Books, Promoting Poets & Artists

📖Interview with Rebecca May Smith: The Paradox of Womanhood (art & poetry book)

^Click to purchase!

The journey of exploring and embracing the beauty and strength, complexity and contradiction, mischief and reverie, pleasure and pain of becoming our authentic self is a lifelong adventure: a pilgrimage celebrated in this unique, adult coloring book.

Inside you’ll discover:

  • 48 beautiful women to color and create.
21 calligraphy crafted lines of poetry with borders to complete.
  • 3 cards, 6 gift tags and 4 bookmarks to finish and share.
Your special link for your complimentary gifts.
  • Insider Secrets to Coloring Like a Pro.
  • Your step-by-step guide to simply beautiful adult coloring.
  • VIP subscription with coloring pictures and puzzles delivered regularly to your inbox.
  • Completed artwork from contributing artist, Olga Kolesnyk.
  • Interviews with our creators – Lou – our poet, and Rebecca – our creative and inspiration collector and creator – on how and why this unique coloring book came into existence and into your hands.

Unleash your creativity, relieve your stress, and discover your Zen within the pages of this intricate and detailed peek into the best of womanhood!

Hello there, Rebecca! The Paradox of Womanhood merges art and poetry quite seamlessly. And the fact that it’s interactive art (coloring) makes it even more fascinating to me. What inspired this highly unique creation?

I love poetry. It has the power to reach out; to gently caress or to widely plunge us into the depths of our very soul and uncover those things long since hidden.

I also love art and the impact it creates.

And I adore the power and fragility, the complexities and contrasts in being a woman.

The inspiration for this book was to share the incredible journey and being of womanhood. Then to craft a piece to aid in creation for creation sake. Not in the “succeeding” or the “winning”… Whatever you or our world may perceive this to be. The winning here is just in the doing, the feeling, the creative connection… Without any judgement at all.

I absolutely love it! So, what has your artistic journey been like up until now?

I love to explore standards and different ways of being. Maybe that comes from a combination of years at University studying health science, the curiosities in clinic, and life’s experiences showing me that we are so much more than atoms and flesh.

Language can be used to tell a story, of course, but its whimsy, rhythm and ability to color and connect are what I really love.

“…We are so much more than atoms and flesh.” What a mystical statement to make that I couldn’t agree any more with! So, we’ve dabbled into inspiration and journeys. Now, I’d like to discuss central themes.

The main theme is womanhood, and how we can be both fragile and strong, funny and serious, genius, fun and grounded. It’s about accepting ourselves and other women as we are.

Unconditional self-acceptance is such a beautiful thing. It’s safe to say this book is chock-full of important themes. What muses have been guiding you along the way?

The incredible women in my life, those I have been blessed to meet along the way, and each woman playing her role in our communities.

Sounds like a powerhouse of inspiration to me! How do you normally go about creating? Is there a particular process you abide by?

Oh, it rarely starts as a process. More a burst of creative inspiration that strikes in the depths of the night! Then, once the initial thoughts are penned, the piece is usually left to rest. Other ideas will strike – thank goodness for always having a notepad and paper on hand. Then when I am ready, I come back to combine, edit, read, edit, rest and edit some more. This process was different than usual as I worked with an amazing poet named Lou.

That’s wonderful. Also, it’s great that you joined poetic forces with another talented word artist. Thanks for giving us a sneak peek into your vibrant world and your new book. It was a true pleasure!


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