Matt Taylor was highly commended in the Life Writing Prize 2021 for Tromode House, a piece of life writing that explores events leading up to Matt being evicted from his home at thirteen years old, and ending up living in the state care system. Prize judge Catherine Cho said: “Tromode House is such a compelling read. It was both heartbreaking and humorous, and that contrast made it even more moving.”
In this interview, Matt shares his thoughts how obtaining his social work files compelled him to write Tromode House, how he finds inspiration from songwriters and his future writing plans.
How does it feel to be highly commended in the Life Writing Prize?
I honestly didn’t feel anyone would be interested in my writing. So, since receiving the phone call, I’ve become infected with imposter syndrome. Now I’ve had time to process it, and confirm they didn’t call me by accident, I’m truly honoured and can’t wait to work the team at Spread the Word.
Can you tell us a little about your highly commended piece – how you came to write it, what the challenges were in writing it and why you chose to enter it into the Prize?
My piece is the tale of how I was evicted from my home at thirteen years old. When I obtained my social work files from growing up in the state care system, they revealed circumstances and decisions in my life that were hidden from me. Reading them compelled me to write about it. Writing this piece was like cutting into an undercooked steak. It looks perfect on the outside, but as soon as you cut through that seared surface, you find it’s still incredibly raw. Stories from people growing up in care are scarce. We’re often brushed under the carpet of society. Having written this piece, I felt I should do something with it, and by pure coincidence, this competition popped up on google.
Tell us about your writing; how long have you been writing for, why do you write?
I’ve been writing on-and-off since the age of 15. First with songs, and then essays. However, for the past two years, it has become a primary focus. I have quite an addictive and obsessive personality, so writing is much less of a choice for me, but more like a fix. It’s the only drug I’ve come across where you get to maintain full control!
Are you working on anything at the minute?
I’m currently working on a memoir about my time in care – which is a follow on from this piece. It’s the first time I’ve ever tackled a book, so I’m hoping with the support of the mentor, I may actually make some headway.
Who are your writing inspirations?
My background is in music, so a lot of my writing inspirations are songwriters. I’ve always been in awe of how the master songwriters are able to turn songs into three minute novels. They leave out all of the emotion, leaving you to fill in the gaps. In terms of prose writers, Christopher Hitchens would be my biggest inspiration.
Do you have any tips for budding life writers out there?
It’s tempting to say I wouldn’t be so arrogant to presume anyone would care for what I have to say, but I’ve just offered up a piece of life for a writing competition, so… The only tip I have is to just keep writing, and enter competitions like this. What they provide is two things. First you actually finish stuff! Second, you’ll push yourself to achieve higher standards. Writing is a craft. I’ve read it a million times myself, the only way to become good at writing is to write.
Matt Taylor is a relatively new writer; this is not only being his first writing competition, but also his first publication. He was born on Isle of Man, where he grew up in the care system, and leant writing is the only way he could make sense of it all. At the age of 16, he moved to mainland UK to forge a career in the music industry. Matt is currently a recording engineer, a director of the Music Producer’s Guild, and also studying an undergraduate diploma in creative writing: non-fiction at the University of Cambridge.
You can read Tromode House in the Life Writing Prize booklet here.