Ana has been editing poetry anthologies since 2009, when I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and Other Poems you Half-Remember from School was the third bestselling poetry title that year. More recently she has edited two volumes of poetry by women, She is Fierce and She Will Soar, a collection of poetry about motherhood, Night Feeds and Morning Songs, and Wonder: The Natural History Museum Poetry Book.
She has contributed articles to books including Writers’ Market UK and The Book Lover’s Companion and to newspapers and magazines, and talked about poetry and publishing at literary festivals, bookshop events, at libraries, in schools and online. Ana has also appeared on television and radio talking about books, poetry and teenage diaries. She lives in Surrey with her husband, two daughters, two demanding cats, and far too many books.
How long do your books take to put together?
Editing my first anthology I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud and Other Poems You Half-Remember from School took a few months – I was working full time so had to fit my poem hunting into evenings and weekends. I also researched and wrote biographies of the poets – I wanted to include the most interesting and quirky facts about their lives – which was time-consuming but fascinating. I loved learning that Edward Lear built his new house in an exact replica lay-out of his old house so as not to confuse his tailless cat, Foss, and that G K Chesterton was so forgetful that his longsuffering wife had to redirect him via telegram when he took the train to the wrong town. Other books have fitted around my day job in various ways so it’s quite varied timewise.
Do you have a writing playlist? If so do you want to share it?
Just the soft snoring of my cats.
What’s the favourite reaction you’ve had to your book?
A teacher told me that she had bought copies of She is Fierce as leaving gifts for all her students as they went on to college and I was so moved. It was during covid, and they had really had a difficult final year, and she thought the poems would prove inspiring talismans for them. It was everything I ever dreamed for one of my collections and such an honour.
What can you tell us about your next book?
Not too much yet but it will be a collaboration with someone I HUGELY admire!
Do you take notice of online reviews?
Yes, if they’re kindly! It means a lot to me when people find a poem they love in one of my books but I tried not to worry about the person who gave my book one star on Amazon because it arrived late for a birthday…
Would you ever consider writing outside your current genre?
I’d love to fill a book with my own writing one day although I don’t think I have the imagination for fiction…
What did you do before (or still do) you became a writer?
I’ve worked in publishing as a publicist for over twenty years. I’ve been lucky enough to work on a very broad range of books – from literary fiction and serious history books to celebrity autobiographies, business books, humour, cook books, general non-fiction, children’s titles and even adult colouring books. It’s a very busy but a very interesting job that I love.
Which genres do you read yourself?
Apart from poetry I have a particular soft spot for historical fiction.
What will always distract you?
Sadly, picking up my phone to read something much less lovely than poetry. Since I mostly work at home, laundry too.
How much (if any) say do you have in your book covers?
It has varied from publisher to publisher but luckily I have always been very lucky in my cover designers!
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes, I was never happier than when I had my nose in a book and I imagine it was pretty difficult for my parents to get me to do anything else!
What were your favourite childhood books?
I devoured the books in our local library where I discovered some of my favourites including Susan Cooper, Alan Garner and Ursula le Guin. I read and re-read The Chronicles of Narnia and my all-time favourite book was The Magicians of Caprona by Diana Wynne Jones. I read it to my children quite recently and was relieved I still loved it every bit as much.
Do you have a favourite bookshop? If so, which?
It’s hard to choose a favourite but I have to mention both The Haslemere Bookshop, a gorgeous shop who have been so supportive of my books and always have excellent recommendations, and Word on the Street in Ashtead, my newish wonderful local bookshop.
How many books are in your own physical TBR pile?
It’s far too many and it would take me half the day to count them all!
What is your current or latest read?
I am reading the manuscript for Tom Rachman’s The Imposters, published next year, which I’ll be working on the publicity campaign for. He is an incredible writer although I haven’t quite forgiven him for making me miss my train stop because I was so engrossed in his last novel (the Costa-shortlisted The Italian Teacher).
Any books that you’re looking forward to in the next 12 months?
Katherine Rundell is a marvel – I read Rooftoppers to the kids and fell absolutely in love with it, and her biography of John Donne was tremendous. She has just announced a children’s fantasy trilogy called Impossible Creatures and the first book will be published next September. Cannot wait. I’m also looking forward to Kate Atkinson’s Shrines of Gaiety which I’m hoping I’ll find under the Christmas tree (because I have too much reading for work to do before Christmas!)
and finally, what inspired you to publish in the genre you do?
I just think poets are magicians. They take my breath away all the time. It’s absolutely incredible to share a poem with readers knowing that it will mean something unique to them, in the same way that songs have different associations for us all, coloured by our own memories, needs and obsessions. What an amazing privilege it is to do this, I’m incredibly grateful.