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Kit Peel Interview

Posted on 02 April 2004. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Kit Peel, journalist, poet, novelist and most recently, librettist. He is one of the finalists in this year's prestigious Genesis Opera Foundation Awards, and has a novel published by Hyperion out in 2005.

Tell us something about your background.

The first paid writing job was in Johannesburg, shortly after university. I started writing freelance for a couple of the national newspapers – initially pieces on what was going on in the townships, off-beat features, travel; they paid the bills. After a year I started to focus on more in-depth reports into government mismanagement, which led to similar commissions. After three years in Africa, in late 2000 I came back to the UK. I worked for Reuters, developed a documentary for BBC, drove a minicab around London for a couple of months in the gap between. During that time I began writing a book. Then for the next few years I worked as news editor/director at Global Radio News, managing around 200 freelance reporters around the world. 24/7 work, but a genuinely groundbreaking alternative to traditional newsgathering. It was also fascinating being in constant contact with stories around the world, from the wires and our correspondents. While doing this, I was writing the libretto for an opera project with a friend and composer, Emily Hall. Sante and Augustine – was originally based on a true story of three young Rwandan girls who in 1981 had visions of the Virgin Mary, followed by premonitions of the genocide that took place there 13 years later. This opera was recently commissioned for full development by the Genesis Foundation. The book (more or less an old fashioned kid’s book) was sold to Hyperion in the US and will be published in 2005. I spend the rest of my time working on the second draft of a play which I wrote over Xmas 2003 and going to see as much performance poetry (and writing as much poetry) as I can.

How did you start writing?

I grew up next to a very large bookshelf. Maybe my bedroom was larger than my brother’s, but while he had a window by to the right of his bed, I had books. I wrote poetry from as early as I can remember and used to win school and local competitions which meant more books. In my year between school and university I decided, after writing some poems that really excited me, that I wanted to keep doing this.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

I mostly read poetry. I tend more to have favourite poems than favourite poets. Poetry both traditional and experimental. Other than that I mostly read non-fiction, current affairs etc.

How did you get your agent/ publisher?

A friend took the five chapters I had written back to the States with her. An agent there signed me up, asked me to write a couple more chapters and then sold the book.

What was your breathrough moment?

Aged 18, walking along a street, looking at two poems I had finished the night before and wondering who had written them.

What's the worst thing about writing?

Reading most first drafts…

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

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