LUCY SUTCLIFFE

Diva (UK) - - Welcome | Contents - Catch Lucy at the DIVA Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val and Awards, tak­ing place 3-5 Novem­ber in Birmingham. Visit di­valit­er­aryfes­ti­val.com for more in­for­ma­tion.

How a ter­ri­fied teenager broke out of ru­ral iso­la­tion and wrote a book

Film­maker and Youtu­ber Lucy Sutcliffe, 24, wowed us last year with the re­lease of her me­moir, Girl Hearts Girl, an up­lift­ing and in­spir­ing in­sight into her life as a gay teen in a small town in Ox­ford­shire. We caught up with Lucy one year on to find out how the book is chang­ing lives – in­clud­ing hers.

DIVA: We’re thrilled to have you tak­ing part in the in­au­gu­ral DIVA Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val in Novem­ber. Why do you think events like this are im­por­tant?

LUCY SUTCLIFFE: I’m thrilled to have been in­vited, so thank you! This is the perfect plat­form to give our com­mu­nity the re­spect and recog­ni­tion we de­serve. So of­ten are we over­looked. We are such a deeply di­verse and in­cred­i­bly tal­ented group of peo­ple, and I’m so proud to be a part of this.

For those who haven’t read your me­moir, can you tell us what it’s about, and how you came to write it?

It’s about my life grow­ing up as a ter­ri­fied, clos­eted les­bian in a small, very ru­ral, Ox­ford­shire town. I was deeply afraid and in­cred­i­bly lonely, and my book doc­u­ments my jour­ney from timid lit­tle gay teen to out-and­proud adult. Where I grew up, there was no “LGBT com­mu­nity”. There were just sheep. So many sheep. I was so scared that there was no- one else like me, and I like to think that if I’d had a book like Girl Hearts Girl back then, I wouldn’t have strug­gled so much. All the sad­ness, anger, and shame… I car­ried it with me for years. It af­fected me so deeply. That’s why I wrote this book. I don’t want young peo­ple to have to go through what I did. I wasn’t alone, but I didn’t know that at the time. I hope Girl Hearts Girl opens the door to peo­ple who feel like they have nowhere to turn.

You are deal­ing with some very per­sonal sub­jects in the book, which must have been dif­fi­cult. Was it a chal­lenge to lay your­self on the page like that? Did you self-cen­sor at times?

It was def­i­nitely chal­leng­ing. Partly, ac­tu­ally, be­cause it forced me to re-live bits of my life that I had pre­vi­ously locked away in a lit­tle box in my brain, never to be looked at again. It was

some­times quite pain­ful to re­visit all those feel­ings again. I was def­i­nitely con­scious of what I wanted to keep pri­vate and [make] pub­lic, too, but I wouldn’t call it cen­sor­ship, nec­es­sar­ily. Even when I was writ­ing about my most vul­ner­a­ble mo­ments, I made sure to be as hon­est, open and gen­uine as pos­si­ble. I want my read­ers to con­nect with how I felt, and that wouldn’t be pos­si­ble if I just glazed over the more dif­fi­cult mem­o­ries and pre­tended like things were eas­ier than they were. There’s a real beauty to hon­esty, I think. When you’re will­ing to be vul­ner­a­ble, you en­cour­age oth­ers to be, too. And what’s more au­then­tic than that?

You talk a lot about your ex-girl­friend Kae­lyn in the book. Is it hard to read back those parts now that you are no longer to­gether?

No, it’s not hard. That was then, and this is now. The book is al­most a time cap­sule: it’s about grow­ing up and it’s about me as much as it is about Kae­lyn. I feel proud to have built my­self a fan­tas­tic in­de­pen­dent life, here in beau­ti­ful Ari­zona, with a wide cir­cle of friends and a job where I get to make films all day (and some­times all night!). Right now, at 24, I’m ex­actly where I want to be and can truth­fully say I’m hav­ing the time of my life.

What kind of re­sponse have you had from young LGBT peo­ple since your book was pub­lished?

The re­sponse has been in­cred­i­ble. When I wrote Girl Hearts Girl, I told my­self that if it changed just one per­son’s life for the bet­ter, then I’d have done my job. The fact that it’s chang­ing more than one per­son’s life for the bet­ter blows my mind ev­ery sin­gle day. I’m so grate­ful and hum­bled by the sup­port. I get pic­tures tweeted to me ev­ery sin­gle day from peo­ple find­ing it in their lo­cal li­braries and book­shops, get­ting it for Christ­mases and birthdays, read­ing it on the beach on their hol­i­days… it feels like I’ve cre­ated a lit­tle fam­ily, re­ally, and that ev­ery­one who reads the book gets to be part of that fam­ily.

What has the re­sponse from your friends and fam­ily been like?

It’s been amaz­ing! Ev­ery­one has been so sup­port­ive. My Granny went out and bought a copy, read it, then mailed it to her friend, with a note proudly say­ing, “My grand­daugh­ter wrote this book!” It’s the best feel­ing in the world. I like how far it’s reached lo­cally, too. Peo­ple I only know by name in my lo­cal town, or peo­ple I went to school with but haven’t spo­ken to in years, keep mes­sag­ing me on Face­book say­ing they picked it up. It feels like I’m unit­ing peo­ple, in a sense. It’s so cool.

Talk us through the writ­ing process – how long did it take? What was the most dif­fi­cult as­pect? What was the best bit?

I was very me­thod­i­cal about my writ­ing process. I had to be – I know my­self well enough to know that if I wasn’t or­gan­ised about my process, things would get messy and com­pli­cated very quickly! One morn­ing, in the be­gin­ning stages of writ­ing the book, I went out and bought three of those cheap, 50 cent note­books from Wal­mart, and a bunch of sticky notes. I sec­tioned the note­books off into chap­ters, then lit­er­ally word-vom­it­ted into them for a week! I wrote down ev­ery sin­gle mem­ory I pos­si­bly could think of that might be rel­e­vant to the book, us­ing the chap­ter mark­ers to guide me onto a sort of time­line, as I knew I wanted the me­moir to be chrono­log­i­cal. Then it was sim­ply a mat­ter of sift­ing through it all, and mak­ing it into a story. That was the hard­est part, I think, but there was some­thing very sat­is­fy­ing about be­ing able to lay my life out onto a page like that, too. The best part, of course, was fin­ish­ing. I re­mem­ber sit­ting back in my chair on my bal­cony, hav­ing fin­ished the last sen­tence, and breath­ing out the big­gest sigh of re­lief. It was such an adren­a­line rush!

Know­ing what you know now as a pub­lished writer, is there any ad­vice you would give your­self at the start of the process, or any­thing you would have done dif­fer­ently?

Or­gan­i­sa­tion is key, in terms of both phys­i­cal space, and in your own brain! I per­son­ally find it very hard to write good con­tent when there’s a mil­lion things on my mind, and I’m in a messy writ­ing space. So I would say that keep­ing things tidy is a must. And no, I don’t think I would have done any­thing dif­fer­ently. Writ­ing a me­moir, for me at least, felt like a very or­ganic process – mostly likely be­cause I was writ­ing about my­self. I fol­lowed my in­stincts, was as hon­est and gen­uine as I could be, and I think that’s the best way to do it. If I’d tried to be any­thing I’m not, peo­ple would have seen through it im­me­di­ately.

Why do you think it’s so im­por­tant to have books by and for LGBT peo­ple, with LGBT themes and char­ac­ters?

We are so un­der-rep­re­sented as a com­mu­nity, even in 2017. We need LGBT themes and char­ac­ters so that young peo­ple have some­thing to iden­tify with and un­der­stand. Our world is so richly di­verse, and it’s ab­surd that so many marginalised groups are still be­ing over­looked in the me­dia. We are here, we ex­ist, and we de­serve to have a voice! Any­thing less is an in­sult to our his­tory as a com­mu­nity.

Who are some of your writ­ers?

It’s cliche, I know, but JK Rowl­ing is al­ways go­ing to be my favourite. I know, I know! Other au­thors I’m lov­ing right now are Non Pratt, Lisa Wil­liamson and Juno Daw­son. They’re all work­ing hard to write di­verse, touch­ing sto­ries that fea­ture LGBT char­ac­ters in re­ally beau­ti­ful, cre­ative ways. I couldn’t rec­om­mend their work enough!

Have you got any more books up your sleeve?

That’s a se­cret for now…! (Subtlety has never been my strong point.)

What ad­vice would you give some­one look­ing to write a me­moir?

Don’t get dis­heart­ened, don’t com­pare your­self to any­one else, and above all else, don’t give up! Mo­ti­va­tion can be hard to find, but you can­not let pas­siv­ity win. If you find your­self strug­gling for in­spi­ra­tion or ideas, get up, make your­self a cup of tea, clear your head. Lis­ten to some mu­sic, go for a walk, call a friend. Then sit down and write your heart out. Write any­thing that comes into your mind. You can make it perfect later. Also, the­saurus. com is your best friend!

“As a gay teen in a ru­ral town, I was deeply afraid and ter­ri­bly lonely”

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