Artistically speaking, Yrsa Daley-Ward is a true triple threat, combining acting, modelling and writing in various permutations: she fuses writing and acting in her spoken word work, and combined her poetic flair with her musical side in collaborating with Beyoncé on Black Is King, the visual companion to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift.
Having already released a book of short stories, a poetry collection, and her 2018 memoir The Terrible, Daley-Ward is now releasing The How: Notes on the Great Work of Meeting Yourself, a written guide to unlocking your creative potential, to “see and feel more of who we really are behind the preconceived notions of propriety and manners we've accumulated.”
To mark its release, we reached out to Daley-Ward to ask her our 21 Questions about life and literature, and she opened up about the “joy and strange, strange things” of Roald Dahl, drinking wine with Jeanette Winterson, and the superpower she wishes she had.
There are too many to list here, but the first person that springs to mind is Alice Walker. She was such an important influence on my early writing because she touched topics I had never seen explored before. She spoke of things I wanted to hear about but had no reference for. I was so inspired by the frankness and beauty of her work.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker. The story was so full and charged with difficulty and cruelty, but also so much beauty and joy.
Any book by Roald Dahl as a child; he made me want to write and write (and infuse poetry with fiction). His books were full of joy and strange, strange things. Funny, sad and downright frightening.
Too many to mention. Too strange for this form. You might have to read my books!
Sit there and do it; it’s not gonna write itself. Show up for it each day, and give only what you have, but give it each day.
Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson. I LOVE this story! And the stories within the story! It is interesting, fantastical and beautifully written. Now I’m thinking of it, of course I love it: it reminds me of the books I read as a child (if you remove the very adult themes!).
None. If I want to read it, I’ll read it, at the cost of doing something else.
New and exciting projects to jump into. I love a new venture. Tea, books, long mornings. Nature!
Identifying trees and flowers, but if you know me, that isn’t surprising! Taking pictures of said trees and flowers. Touching the leaves.
A country house with lots of grounds. An early start, loads of ideas, delicious, never-ending tea. The workday ends at 2 p.m. and then it’s time to explore the sunny city.
Nothing has happened yet – I think I have it to look forward to!
Not dinner, drinks. Jeanette Winterson. Red wine for her (if she’s into it), pink tea for me.
Running out of time. In general. For everything.
Being fluent in every language. I’d love to translate my own work and the work of others.
Of course! That’s what they’re for!
Tea every time.
Nope. I love books too much to name just one.
Lockdown and (to be honest) a looming deadline!
Image design at top: Alexandra Francis for Penguin
The author of genre-bending novel Sorrowland on Donna Tartt, reclaiming nature, and the formative ‘sexy horror’ of Anne Rice’s vampire novels.