Rachel was born in London, the fifth of six children, and now lives in Brighton, Sussex. She trained and worked for many years as a teacher for children with special needs, while bringing up three sons. Her poems have appeared in numerous anthologies, she’s had a solo collection published for younger children I’m Not Telling You and has a new collection for older children called The Language of Cat which will be published in May, 2011 (Frances Lincoln)
Hello Rachel. Let’s begin by asking how long have you been writing poetry?
I wrote lots of poetry as a child but stopped when I got into my teens. I started writing poetry again many years later, once my children were nearly grown up.
Why do you write poetry?
I like the rhythms,patterns and detail in poetry. And also the fact that you can carry a whole poem around in your head.
Do you write anything other than poetry?
I don’t think I have the attention span to write a novel, although I may try someday.
I have written a rhyming picture book called A Patch of Black due out with Macmillan in 2012.
Do you write for adults?
I hope that some of the poems I write for children are also for adults.
How long does it take to write a poem?
Sometimes half an hour, sometimes 10 half hours.
What is the most unusual event that has inspired you to write a poem?
My youngest son came into the kitchen and announced that 80% of people prefer chips to poems, so I wrote a poem about it. It’s in my new collection.
How do you write your poems?
Curled up in a green chair with a thin nibbed pen and lots of paper.
Do you have a special time to write?
Usually when it is past my bedtime.
What did you do before becoming a poet?
I taught children with special needs for many years.
Do you visit schools?
Yes, I do. And I still enjoy working with children and students, running workshops and helping children learn about and write poems.
What is your favourite poem?
I have lots of favourite poems for my different moods. Sometimes I want to read a funny poem, sometimes I enjoy reading a sad poem, or a poem that really makes me think hard. It’s too difficult to choose.
How about your own poems. Which is your favourite?
Hmm. It’s usually the last one that I wrote – and if it isn’t, I get annoyed and try to write a better one.
Did you write poems at school?
I don’t remember writing poems at school but I do remember writing them at home. Here’s one I wrote when I was 11 about my bus journey home from school.
The 20a Bus
In the line you hear a chatter
Up and down a clatter, clatter.
Noisy schoolgirls scream and shout
pushing in and pushing out.
Down the street the red bus trundles.
Girls surge forwad all in bundles.
On at last, but what a rush
Banged my elbows in the cush.
‘I don’t know what it’s coming to’
said the lady with big buttons, who
had a habit to pursue
the trivial things young children do.
And when the bus stops in the street
I kick her underneath the seat
And when the lady stops her chat
I pull the cherries from her hat.
Rachel Rooney (aged11)
Your new book is called The Language of Cat. Why did you call it that?
The title comes from one of the poems. It’s about how I would like to act like a cat.