09 November 2010
Penny Culliford - Author
Penny Culliford is the author of the Theodora’s Diary Books, a series of comedy-novels. In 2007, she released The Art of Standing Still, a novel based in Kent about a community that revives the tradition of medieval mystery plays. Penny writes plays and scripts, children’s poems, speaks to writers groups, at arts festivals, can be heard on BBC Radio Kent and contributes to magazines.
Penny teaches part-time in primary schools. She likes chocolate, TV sitcoms and unexpected acts of kindness. She dislikes celery, stick insects and people who take themselves too seriously.
As a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was little, I used to line up my toys in front of a blackboard and boss them around. If I wasn't doing that, I used to make my friends be in my plays and boss them around. Oh dear! Nothing has changed.
How did you get involved in writing?
I started writing as an adult when I was training to be a teacher. My first piece was a sketch featuring dogs and penguins. The next was a short competition play about four amoebas. I haven't looked back.
What is the best and worst thing of writing?
The worst thing is having to sit still in a chair in front of a keyboard on my own, trying to avoid distractions, for several hours a day. The best thing is meeting people - for research and other writers or readers. I also love writing for and with actors.
How do you engage your literary skills with kids?
Apart from teaching in schools, I'm involved in Focus on the Arts, a Kent-based children's arts project and Creating for Success which encourages children to engage with academic subjects through the arts. I also write plays and scripts to be performed for children, including, as far as I know, the only bilingual English/Italian stage version of The Gingerbread Man! I've also written the scripts for a new DVD series of Bible stories for very young children called "Henry Hand Puppet".
We have a creative grace to shape the world. What is your specific edge?
I hope it's that I write things people can relate to. I often wonder, "Surely I'm not the only one who thinks..." From the feedback I get, I'm glad to learn that I'm not.
Cultural highlight of the year so far?
Greenbelt! A place to learn, to wonder, to ask, to disagree, to join, to laugh, to celebrate, to worship, to share a pint, to meet with friends old and new - and the music's good too.
What person, text or biblical story inspires your work?
The person whose books inspired me and who continues to inspire me as a friend is the very lovely, and extremely tall and bearded, Adrian Plass. I love the way he can be irreverent, yet deeply reverent at the same time.
Martin Luther King Jr had a dream for society. What is yours?
For authentic encounters with Christ to change lives and situations.
What makes you angry?
Bullying in all its forms.
Which movie character do you most relate to?
I suppose Bridget Jones, although my daughter says I'm Alice from the Vicar of Dibley.
Best script ever?
It's hard to separate script from performance, so I would have to say Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra as performed by Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter in the RSC's 2006 production. It was stunning. I couldn't speak afterwards.
How does creative writing bring wellbeing in society?
We are creative beings. God designed us to create and if we are prevented from imagining worlds beyond ourselves, we will end as sad shrivelled things. Writing is one way of recording and communicating what we create.
Please leave us with a piece of your poetic mind…
If you try to eat raspberries
When you have holes in your teeth,
Are you destined always to succeed?