Back Home With…
is a new feature here at To All The People Back Home, and my way of interviewing like-minded bookish creatives, where they can share their tips, tricks, experiences, and realizations so that you might walk away feeling inspired and motivated. We’re going to focus on balance, creative freedom, envy, love, and why we cherish the stories we do.
It’s so easy to feel alone in our struggles with our projects, especially for writers, I think, so this is my opportunity to show you you’re not alone. The people I will feature on this website have big dreams to go with their large hearts and vibrant personalities.
Today’s interview features one of the most uplifting people I’ve been very lucky to have reach out to me. Her name is
You can find her on her writing Instagram @ardentlabours.
Beth is from Wales, she’s 19, and she’s a badass friend that kind of came out of nowhere, in the very best way. She’s been writing since she was nine years old. Her absolute favorite reads are Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (which we have in common!), Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman, and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Her favorite song of the moment: Colleen by Joanna Newsom. Favorite tv show: Hannibal.
Beth and I met
online a few months ago now, after I’d announced on social media that I was taking an indefinite hiatus from Youtube. She wrote me a DM on Twitter saying how much she enjoyed my videos and the writing I’d shared. Since then she’s been my biggest online cheerleader, reading my fiction wherever I post it, as well as inspiring and motivating me with random, loving messages about what I’m doing and what I have planned. Now, I think I have the privilege of calling her a friend.
On writing while studying:
A: Hello, my friend. So, I know you more or less moonlight as a writer when you have the time. What do you do in the daytime? Do you struggle between a job and your passion?
B: So, I don’t have a day job per se, but I’m a second-year Geology student at Bristol University. And, obviously, by night, my passion is writing and storytelling.
A: Wow! A Geology student?!? What does that entail and how do you find time to pursue your writing?
B: So, as a course, Geology studies the Earth using the sciences, so it’s pretty much maths, physics and chemistry heavy, with some paleontology on the side. It’s a really fascinating subject, the Earth has one of the most interesting stories of all, and being a geologist is like being a detective. Using the mineralogy or the structure of a rock to find out what was happening millions of years ago.
Last year, I found it really hard to keep up with writing, but that was more because of my living situation at Uni than the course itself. I find Geology really inspiring as a subject, so I tend to want to write after classes.
A: I’m stunned by the depth of the subject – I totally did not fathom how much goes into it. So from what I’ve gathered off stalking you on social, you’re working on a project with Celtic mythology, is that right? What drew you to play in that sandbox?
B: So, I’m from Wales where it’s difficult to escape Celtic influences – the Welsh language is one of the closest modern languages to the Celtic language. I did an extra Classics class in my last year of high school, and it really fuelled my interest in it. I really like history that is so far removed from how we live now, and stories/myths tend to reflect how people thought, what they feared or prized, etc.
A: That’s a brilliant takeaway, especially for a high schooler. I think back to my high school days and I hate how I often approached my education with something like smug indifference – who knows what I could’ve picked up! But we also didn’t have tons of classes on mythology and diverse literature. I’m really curious: Do you speak the Welsh language? Is that common in Wales? Is there a certain quality that’s specifically influenced a character or the world you’re creating?
B: Oh, my English teacher accused me of being the most indifferent student once… I was totally lazy with subjects that didn’t interest me, like if we did books in English that I didn’t like, or maths. Luckily one of my teachers did Classics as an after-school class. At the time, I was doing too many subjects to sit the exam, so I just enjoyed the lessons.
And I don’t speak Welsh, I have an extremely basic grasp of it. It’s common in some areas more than others. In Cardiff, it’s more common to speak English, but you’ll hear the odd person speaking Welsh. So with my current WIP, it’s actually set on a fictional island in Wales so I could use actual Welsh myth.
On Welsh mythology & dealing with criticism:
A: Did you take that personally, being called out by an English teacher? I tended to find that I had zero interest in even English for a while, until I finally came across teachers I truly loved and respected. Did you also have teachers you prized after high school and even now into university? And do you worry about incorporating Welsh mythology? Sometimes it can be daunting weaving a mythology that’s familiar to us – or even unfamiliar – to us because we’re scared of getting it wrong. I know you’ve been doing a ton of research as well…
B: I mean, I was like ‘how RUDE’ when it happened, but it didn’t bother me too much. It was a teacher I liked and respected enough to give him one of my short stories to critique (the only time I ever did), mainly because I knew he would but harsh but fair. I think with English my issue is the books, I’m too stubborn to read books I’m told to read (I didn’t read any of my exam texts… not advisable!!).
And yeah, I have loads of teachers who I really prize, especially those that really believed in me (my maths teachers especially!). One of my geology teachers from high school said I was the best geologist he’d ever taught, which is almost definitely not true, but I very much appreciate the sentiment. He was the teacher who inspired me to take on the subject in the first place, so thank you, Mr. Daniels!
And I’m trying to give myself some space with mythology, using elements of myth instead of following them fully. For example, one of my characters is based off the Mari Llwyd, but only in aesthetics.
So I’m lifting aspects of myth rather than relating them or retelling them.
A: Oh my god, I love it!!! Mari is definitely a hit with me!
I love the fact that you were able to take criticism and actually pursued a constructive connection with this teacher. I don’t know if I’d’ve had the guts to approach a teacher like that back in high school. And I’m definitely not surprised that you were told you were brilliant, because one thing I’ve noticed as an avid reader of mine (which I’m so so incredibly fortunate to say) you are completely engaged and intuitive when you read a story. Where does that come from, do you think? That ability to feel so much from just words? How does your insight affect how you write?
B: It took so much to approach my teacher, but I guess I was feeling confident about what I’d written, and really wanted to improve it. Not sure if I’d be able to do it with other pieces, if I’m honest. I’m notoriously shy about my writing.
Haha, such high praise!! That I don’t deserve!! But I feel like my very basic analysis comes from being a writer myself. I know what its like on the other side of the screen/paper, if you understand.
A: I totally understand that! And it’s funny, you mention confidence, and I think that’s something so many people, whether they’re writers or artists or in some other book-related creative pursuit, struggle with. What do you do to feel confident about what you’re writing so you can keep going at it? Do you have a mantra or a dream or anything that gets you inspired, or at least helps you conquer your fear for the day?
B: Oh, I know. Self-doubt is the bane of my life!! Mostly, though, I write for myself. I tell stories that interest me, so I try not to worry about what someone else might think because I’m going to be the only one reading. I don’t aim to publish or share it as I write, because I find the pressure gives me writer’s block. That’s not to say I don’t imagine myself following the tradition publishing route someday. Do you have a mantra? I haven’t even thought of having one. 😂
A: Haha! Yes! I’m full of mantras, as I’m really into personal development all the way down to the spiritual sense. And I like to reinforce my positive thoughts and counteract my negative ones. So, lately for example, I’ve been using, “If I can see it in my heart, I can and will hold it in my hands.” (That comes thanks to Cara Alwill Leyba at thechampagnediet.com)
B: Oh, that’s a really good one. It’s visualization to reach your goal.
A: Now because you’re a writer and clearly have been writing a long time, what’s something you hope to share with your writing, even if it’s just with yourself? What are you looking for when you read and write? (that’s kind of a two-parter, sorry not sorry :P)
B: I mean, I have loads of things I want to say, although they’re not always purposeful when I sit down to write – like themes just appear out of nowhere when I read it back. Very clumsily and cheesily, I’d say the things I want to share most is tolerance, acceptance, and kindness. What I’m looking for… that’s so hard! Probably something to take me far away from real life, with fun and laughter and madness.
A: Thank you so much for joining us Back Home and sharing, Beth! I hope we get to meet offline one day soon!
Last thing: shoutout to Beth’s brother for taking some of the pictures you see here. Thanks for contributing all these images Beth. I also took some off of Beth’s personal Instagram account.