Our Alumni & Public Relations Officer Jack Harvey spoke to Laura Potts about her time at The Yorker and her career since university.
Laura was an Original Works Editor at The Yorker, launching and judging a number of creative writing competitions. She is an accomplished, award-winning poet and currently contributes her poems and plays to BBC Radio.
What was life like at the University of York when you were a student there? Were there any memorable moments?
Many. Every day was a memory. I remember them well, though not always fondly. It was a time of joy and abject sadness. I suppose, simply, I never quite felt at home there. I’ve been lucky enough to always know what I wanted to gain from my life, and university came to feel like a detour for me. I left without completing my degree. Which was sad, because York is wordlessly excellent. Socially and academically, it held my world for a very brief time until I realised my heart just wasn’t there. It wasn’t in higher education anymore. Perhaps it never was. It just took a little longer for me to realise that. The brave decision to leave brought a lot of short-term pain, but was the best for me in the end. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy my time there. For a fairly solitary soul, I had a large group of friends for the very first time. In fact, it was the season of firsts. First friendship I found. First romance I lost. First time I was stalked and attacked by a goose. First time I felt, with a sense of relief, that time and the future were mine. I’m glad that I went, if only to look back like this.
What did you do when you were besides your degree and contributing to The Yorker?
Most of the time I wrote. Poetry and playwriting were never far away, as has always been the case. I briefly wrote for The Lemon Press and edited for The Looking Glass. I also had a sudden desire to learn something new and niche, so bell-ringing became the hobby I was only ever hopeless at. Apart from that I read, wrote for University Radio York and enjoyed a few wild nights with friends. I received the Achieving Excellence Award after first year and spent my bursary working away at The Dylan Thomas Birthplace in Swansea. And, of course, I took a summer school at the University of Cape Town. Those times have lived and lasted past the good few years they took.
What happened to you after university? Did you start working straightaway?
As I left university without the degree I’d intended to get, the immediate months were tense. Plan A had gone, and my hopes for Plan B looked bleak. I returned home, began work in a local gift shop and used my weekends to sell off old belongings at the local market. In the spare hours every evening and in a throwback to my childhood, I would retreat to my room to write. Within a few months, my work had been accepted by major publishers and I had moved on from a dead-end job. At last, I had reached a place of contentment; a place that, if I were really honest with myself, I had always really wanted to be. The break came four months after leaving York. Having made a last-minute application to a job which seemed like a far-off dream, I received an interview with the BBC. The rest, thankfully, is now history.
Could you tell me about your career history?
After a first successful commission, I was recruited to join the BBC Writers’ Room and now write, among other things, poetry and plays for BBC Radio. More recent work has been split in other ways: I have taught poetry at Winchester College and will begin to work with Oxford University in the spring. Great strides have come from little steps, or that’s what I like to believe. Other than that, I continue to write. When not writing I am reading, which is always enough in itself.