Pagan Poeple – Nimue Brown talks to Kevan Manwaring

May 1st, 2013 | By | Category: Pagan People

Kevan ManwaringKevan Manwaring is a writer, teacher and storyteller who lives in Stroud. Holder of an MA in the Teaching and Practice in Creative Writing from Cardiff University, he teaches creative writing for the Open University. He also runs freelance courses in storytelling and various aspects of the writing process to a wide variety of students. As a professional storyteller he has appeared on BBC TV and in numerous shows both solo and with Fire Springs Storytelling Company in Britain and abroad (USA, Italy and Malta). He is the author of The Bardic Handbook, The Book of the Bardic Chair, Lost Islands, & others. His poems and articles have appeared in several magazines and anthologies. In 1998 he won the Bardic Chair of Bath. He runs the small ecobardic press, Awen Publications. He loves wandering the land on two wheels or two legs, helping people and places to sing their song.

I first encountered Kevan when handed a copy of Windsmith to review some years ago, and have been quietly stalking him ever since. Kevan is a prolific and talented author, a leading figure in modern Bardic work and someone I hugely admire. I’ve interviewed him before, and it’s always a joy…

Nimue: While most authors these days tend to stick to one form, your inspiration evidently carries you in a lot of different directions. Do all kinds of writing appear to you equally, or do you have a favourite?

Kevan: Well, poetry was my first love and still informs everything I do. I write fiction more than anything – of the mythic, multi-layered, variety – having just completed my five volume novel series, The Windsmith Elegy, and Oxfordshire Folk Tales (which comprises 40 tales – effectively new short stories). Recently, I have been working on a non-fiction book about writing Fantasy (for Compass Books). I find alternating between forms (fiction/non-fiction) effective: a change is as a good as a rest! I am particularly excited by screenwriting at present – having penned two TV pilots last year (Black Road; & The Rambling House, which have received very positive feedback from the BBC); and a two and a half feature-length screenplays (the ‘half’ is the beginning of an adaptation of my novel, The Long Woman). Do I have a favourite…? Well, it’s like having to choose between one’s children. At a push, my favourite is … whichever one I happen to working on at the time. What informs them all is my delight in storyteller – I’m a natural born fabulist. I probably have a kind of Obsessive Narrative Disorder. The stories just keep coming!

Nimue:  Wow, you’ve been busy! that’s a very exciting list. You’re also teaching, and travelling… I assume you must sleep now and then, which rather begs the question… how do you sustain that intense creativity?

Kevan: Well, in a nutshell, rest, reading, and replenishing the well (by doing things that ‘feed’ my writer, e.g. storytelling, poetry, readings, talks, plays, films, nature). I explore ‘why’ we do something as apparently insane as spend years of our life working on some magnum opus that may not see the light of day; and ‘how’ we keep going against all the odds in my forthcoming book from Compass Books: Desiring Dragons – which looks at what I call the Writer’s Quest. Looking back in hindsight, after the completion of a ten-year project (The Windsmith Elegy), I feel I am in a good position to do this. It’s certainly been beneficial to me to work out these things! 

Nimue:  As a reader I very much enjoy the way you weave different strands into the non-fiction – myth and academic insight alongside personal experience. Both The Way of Awen and Turning the Wheel have that blend of personal and more broadly intellectual, which I think is an unusual balance to strike, and also a really engaging mix. What prompted you to take that approach? 

Kevan: I see it as capturing the creative tension present in any moment – between the poetic and the prosaic, the magical and the mundane, the mythos and the logos. Both are needed – they cross-fertilise one another. I guess they are connected to the left- and right-hemispheres of the brain – one literal, one lateral – having a conversation with each other. John Fowles called this dialectic the ‘wild man and the academic’ – a writer requires both ‘jackets’ (a bloody, muddy mantle of fur, leaves and feathers – and a tweedy jacket with leather patches on the elbow). That’s my wardrobe, anyway! 

Nimue: That conjures up some wonderful images! So, there’s the non-fic on the way about writing, anything else in progress or at the contemplation stage right now? 

Kevan: A few ideas for novels I want to write … one is connected to a PhD place (offered, but postponed until I get the funding). I’ll need the tweed if I go for it! I’m also excited by Awen’s New Awen Writing Initiative – encouraging new voices. 

Nimue: Ooh, I shall take the bait…. tell us more about the New Awen Writing Initiative, Kevan! 

Kevan: NAWI is a project I’ve set up with my small press, Awen, to encourage new voices – specifically visionary writers of the New Sublime (as I call the collective revisioning of reality by pioneering imagineers!). It is to tie-in with our 10th anniversary. Awen started as a community publishing initiative, and our first title was Writing the Land: an anthology of natural words, which I edited, back in Autumn 2003. NAWI will lead to a new anthology – to be launched winter this year. There are lots of up-and-coming talented writers out there – and we want to hear from them! Let’s sing in the new paradigm with voices compassionate, imaginative and bold.

Here’s  a bit from the official blurb…

New Awe Writing Initiative (NAWI) is a project designed to provide a platform for original new voices, writing in English anywhere in the world. We are keen to  promote  writing  that  dazzles  and  inspires  –  writing  that  moves  and motivates,  be  it  poetry,  prose  fiction,  life-writing  or  essay  …  virtually  any written form you can think of – as long as it makes us go ‘Wow!’ We want work which makes the reader look at the familiar in an unfamiliar way; that makes us appreciate the world we live in, who we are, and what we can be. 

Follow link here for further information. 

Nimue: You have the silver branch Yahoo group for bards,  which is a wonderful and very supportive space.  Where else, virtually or out there in the real world, can people connect with you? 

Kevan: Folk can find out what I’m up to via my author site ( However, I weary of ‘social networking’ and being online too much and prefer actual (rather than virtual) communication.  I love handwritten letters and prefer face-to-face to emails, etc. If you want to connect with me and are in the Cotswolds, arrange to meet up for a cuppa, buy me a pint, or chat to me at a book-signing, or a spoken word event. (I run the Stroud Writers’ Cafe – 1st Wed; & Story Supper – last Fri – in town). I’m very approachable! Community is important to me and I do my bit. I love weaving creative connections. 

Nimue:… one of these days, I shall have to do that thing! Many thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kevan, and I shall watch the progress of the New Awe Writing initiative with great interest. 

nimue brownDruid, author, bard and dreamer. Nimue is OBOD trained, a founding member of Bards of The Lost Forest, Druid Network member and previous a volunteer for The Pagan Federation.


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