When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with Emily Dickinson’
I used to dress up as Emily Dickinson and recite her poetry. I wore amazing white dresses with pleated and ruffled collars, just like hers, and I wore my hair parted down the middle and pulled back. I didn't leave my bedroom, except to go to school and I used to get my mum to leave my dinner on a tray outside my room and talk to me through the doorjamb.
Just like Emily Dickinson. It really annoyed my family. But I found it invigorating. Most importantly, it was the first time that I started scribbling fragments of stories on anything that came to hand - backs of shopping lists, envelopes, serviettes, inside book covers. Of course, this idea was also stolen from Emily Dickinson. But I realised, by doing this, that I was always writing, I was a compulsive writer and I was able to find inspiration in even the most mundane things.
I don't dress up as Emily Dickinson anymore and now I carry a notebook in my handbag. But I am still known to scrawl lines of fiction or prose-poetry on the odd shopping list from time to time. Writers need to have a passion for reading and I don't think it hurts to form mini-obsessions with famous writers and poets. In this way, you learn from the masters. I like thinking that Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Vladimir Nabokov, Gustave Flaubert, Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Carlos Williams, Cleveland Amory, countless Romantic poets and of course, Emily Dickinson, among many others, have influenced my writing.
Cassandra Atherton writes fiction, prose-poetry, creative non-fiction and essays.