Amy Tollyfield, a published writer and performance poet, tells us all about their career
BY SOPHIE GRIFFITHS, IMAGE BY SIMON HOLLIDAY
Amy Tollyfield is a published performance poet and the author of two poetry collections – Toy Soldiers and The Suicide – both published by Olympia Publishers.
Based in the UK, Amy lives in Bath, South West England, and spends her days open-micing and writing new material. Since August 2018 she has performed her poetry at Clifton Literature Festival 2019, The Barbican Theatre in Plymouth and The Wardrobe Theatre in Old Market, Bristol, among other venues and events. Sounds pretty dreamy, doesn’t it?
We caught up with Amy to find out more about life as a published poet and how she first got started.
DIVA: When did you first get into this career?
AMY TOLLYFIELD: I started writing poetry around the age of seven, but my first book of poetry, The Suicide, was published in 2018. When I was either 16 or 17 I had a poem of mine titled One Day I Will Fly to New York published in an edition of English in Education: Research Journal of the National Association for the Teaching of English, which is a literary resource for English teachers across the UK. The title of this poem was later revised to One Day and this poem featured in The Suicide.
What was the driving factor in deciding to “Go for it!” in terms of your career?
I have always written but I have also always had a strong theatre and performance background. I am a former registered member of the National Youth Theatre and I studied drama, performance and Shakespeare at university. In my early twenties I was writing lots of poetry, then taking it onstage to perform at open mic nights in Bath. This combination of writing and performance – and seeing the audience enjoying my work – spurred me on to write more and perform more; once I had naturally created a substantial body of work I knew I wanted to be published and I sent my poetry to many different publishers.
How would you describe an average day in five words?
I do not write daily so everyday is different! An average day spent writing would be: time alone is rarely wasted.
What’s the best thing about your job?
When people who don’t normally read poetry buy one of my books and say, ‘I don’t normally like poetry but I love yours’, or watch one of my poetry performance videos online and say something similar. Any form of writing or performance is engagement and so for people to engage with my spoken or written work is incredible and so beautiful for me.
What’s the worst thing about your job?
You need to be very tenacious as not everyone will appreciate your work. Obviously you want to appeal to as many people as possible with your writing however you also have to be authentic. I am a very authentic writer, performer and poet. If I am not for you then no problem, but I won’t change.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
In my teens I wanted to be an actor. As a young child (before the age of five), I used to line my teddybears up in a mock classroom and teach them English. They had little exercise books and everything. I think I even had a mini-chalkboard. So I have always been an advocate of the creative arts. My passions have always been English and Drama, in reasonably equal measure.
Has your sexuality, gender identity or race ever been an issue?
Even a skim-read of Toy Soldiers or The Suicide would give away that the author is a lesbian, so a quick read of my work usually precludes any doubts or questions about my sexuality. I do believe that sexuality is a spectrum – my own included – however personally I fully identify as gay. As far as I’m aware being gay has not been an issue during my writing career so far. Hopefully it will continue to not be an issue.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
The author of at least one further poetry book and working on my first, and perhaps only, novel.
What advice would you give someone pursuing a similar career?
Be tenacious and believe in your own talent.
What one superpower would make your job easier?
I wouldn’t change a thing about my experience. The difficulties and the knock-backs make you graft harder. If I had a superpower to make things easier then I wouldn’t work as hard and the finished product wouldn’t be as good. I have always worked hard and working hard is part of the enjoyment of the eventual success.
What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
Work hard. I believe hard work and manners will open almost every door. If you are tenacious and polite then you can achieve many things. Perhaps not straight away, but eventually.
How do you measure success?
If it felt authentic and it felt right and you put your soul into it then you have created something beautiful of which you should be proud.
Toy Soldiers by Amy Tollyfield is out now and available to buy online from Amazon UK, Waterstones, Foyles, Olympia Publishers and Barnes & Noble, among other stockists. To find out more about Amy and her books visit www.amytollyfield.com.
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