It’s been a while since I last published an interview on here. I met Cassy Fry a while ago, first online (that’s bloggers for you) and then in person at a fun London Blogcademy reunion. I’ve always loved her blog and it was amazing when I found out that she was actually taking steps towards becoming a full-time writer. Now that is inspirational!
I believe her work is very creative and a lot of fun – and having read 50 Shaded Poems, I decided that I had to find out more about the artist behind it and the process. I’m sure you’ll find our email conversation as interesting and inspiring as I did.
What made you want to be a writer?
First came a love of books, then words. I spent a lot of my childhood reading, I adored stories and song lyrics. I spent a lot of my teenage years making my own music magazines and penning angsty goth girl poetry and tragic short stories in my bedroom. I didn’t have the confidence or knowledge to go after a career in music journalism, my teachers never rated my creative writing (which was a fair assessment!) and I didn’t really have any stories to tell. So even though I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t think it was something I could do. I toyed with the idea of being an English teacher, then decided I wanted to be a literary academic, but it wasn’t for me.
I returned to the idea of being a writer, but I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to say. I always wrote, but I rarely finished anything and if I did I hated it. I focused on my career in arts management, which I loved and inspired me, and that helped me tap into my own creativity. Lifestyle blogging was the perfect way to start finding my voice and what I actually wanted to tell the world. It took a while to go from having a blog, to being a blogger, from writing to being a writer. Now I am back in my teenage bedroom writing better poetry and making zines and books, this time to share. It isn’t lost on me that I was always a writer, it just took me 20 years to realise it and tell people that I am!
Your book idea is super funny. How did you come about the idea to do it?
It feels like I was destined to make 50 Shaded Poems! When Fifty Shades of Grey fever hit, I was not only a literary snob but a prude, with good reason though, I was suffering from severe sexual pain as a result of medical and emotional traumas. I found all the public discussion of not only sex but sexual violence, domination and pain, very distressing. My friend Debra (who always has the best creative ideas) jokingly suggested I write the antidote to Fifty Shades Of Grey, I said maybe I would. I didn’t do anything about it, but the idea was released and floating in the back of my head.
Fast forward to 2015 when I was regularly making blackout or found poetry, which is redacting text in existing books to create poems, and I realised there was one book that had real potential for reworking! When I saw a copy of Fifty Shades in the charity shop, I just knew I should make 50 poems from it. It didn’t start as a book – more of a pet project – but I quickly realised I wanted to find a way to share them. Up until then, my blackout poems were random, but I always liked to make poems that were substantially different from the original genre. 50 Shaded Poems was an experiment to see if I could find something beautiful and poetic, both transforming the original and challenging my preconceptions of the book.
Can you explain a little bit about the process of creating blocked out pages?
I knew I was looking for inspiring, beautiful, uplifting words and wanted to put together phrases that were poetic, truthful and emotional. I start my scanning pages for words that seemed meaningful or poignant, I’d circle them in pencil and then look for the sentence. They just start to jump out of you after a while. It is similar to doing a word search.
I began going through the pages in order, but found I started to absorb the story, and would end up reading! I wanted to make the poems having not actually read it properly, so I quickly changed to just opening it at random and picking a page. I never read it from start to finish, but I have obviously now read chunks of it and have a feel for the plot and characters. The saucy bits were very distracting!
When creating poems like this I use different materials to cover the unwanted text, but for this project it had to be marker pens in black and grey. It just seemed the most appropriate. In terms of design, I wanted them all to feel unique, but I didn’t over think it, I just drew, shaded and scribbled whatever felt right. Some turned out better than others, but everyone seems to have different favourites.
What are your main objectives as a writer?
To write with raw honest emotion, delivered with grace, dignity and humour.
To have people read my work. As an introvert, I’ve always communicated best in writing, but it has also been a therapeutic and private thing too. I have reached the point when I just want to share – to communicate more, to improve my work and to set it free!
I really want to connect with other people, even if it is just one way. When I read, I’ll often bookmark or underline something that resonates and is just beautifully put. There are so many writers that have connected with me on a really intimate intellectual and emotional level, yet they themselves are utterly removed and unknown, it is the work itself. Even if I am reading a fantasy for fun, there are those occasional phrases that are just perfect, that make me think “I wish I wrote that. That is a great line!”. I want all of that the other way round, someone writing out a quote or turning over the corner of the page, someone thinking yes, it is like she is writing just for me. Even if I never know about it. It is an amazing feeling though, when someone messages me about something I’ve written or shares a piece of my work. When I write a review on my blog, I love it when people say I really captured it, or thy felt like they were there. If a reader gets it, I’m doing something right.
Are you working on anything you’d like to lift the veil on?
There is going to be a 50 Shaded Poems exhibition in London in the summer – watch out on my blog or sign up to my newsletter, ready for when I announce the details in the Spring. I am so excited about it!
I’ve just published a second poetry book – I Forgot. It is a poem made from late night notes I made on my phone, of all the things I had forgotten.
I’m also writing a memoir about my experiences with pelvic, sexual and emotional pain. Sounds like a fun read huh?! I’m trying to make it raw, real and somewhat irreverent, so it fits my usual clever and cheeky voice while talking about some serious stuff in a meaningful way. I need to tell my story, it is the next step for me both personally and creatively, and I think there are people, particularly women, who will want to read it. I’ll be posting regular updates on my Patreon page, so if anyone wants to support the project that is the place to go.