Occasionally Asked Questions
Could you puff yourself up in a few paragraphs of third person prose, please?
Certainly. Paul was born in the early 1970s, and grew up in the suburbs of London and the English southeast. In the early 1990s, he went to Oxford University to study history. While he was there, he became involved in the road protest movement, and through that in environmental activism and writing.
After graduating, Paul worked for a year on the staff of the Independent newspaper, which he hated. Following a three year stint as a campaign writer for an environmental NGO, he was appointed deputy editor of The Ecologist.
He left the Ecologist in 2001 to write his first book One No, Many Yeses, a political travelogue which explored the growing anti-capitalist movement around the world. The book was published in 2003 by Simon and Schuster, in six languages across 13 countries.
In the early 2000s, having spent time with the tribal people of West Papua, who continue to be brutally colonised by the Indonesian government and military, he was one of the founders of the Free West Papua Campaign, which he also helped to run for a time. Paul was made an honorary member of the Lani tribe in Papua for his work there.
Paul’s second book, Real England, was published in 2008 by Portobello. An exploration of the changing face of his home country in an age of globalisation, the book was quoted in speeches by the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury and saw its author compared to Cobbett and Orwell by more than one newspaper, which he enjoyed.
Are you showing off?
A bit. In 2009, Paul dreamed up and co-founded the Dark Mountain Project, a writers’ and artists’ movement designed to question the stories our culture is telling itself in a time of ecological and social unravelling. What began as a self-published pamphlet became a global network of writers, artists and thinkers, publishing two books a year and running events around the world. Paul continued to run Dark Mountain before stepping back in 2017.
In 2011, Paul’s first poetry collection, Kidland, was published by Salmon. He has won various prizes for his poetry, including the 2012 Wenlock Festival Prize.
In 2014, Paul’s first novel, The Wake was published. It was longlisted for the Man Booker, the Desmond Elliott, the Walter Scott and the Folio Prizes, nearly won the Goldsmiths Prize and did actually win the Gordon Burn Prize and the Bookseller Book of the Year Award. In 2015, it was published in the US by Graywolf Press.
Paul second novel, Beast, was published in July 2016 by Faber and Faber and by Graywolf in the US in 2017. In 2017 it was shortlisted for the Encore Award for the best second novel.
In 2017, Paul’s essay collection Confessions of a Recovering Environmentalist was published in the UK and the US.
In 2018, he published his second collection of poetry, Songs from the Blue River.
Paul’s journalism has appeared in a strange smorgasbord of places, including the Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Le Monde Internationale, New Statesman, Big Issue, Adbusters, Emergence, Orion, BBC Wildlife and the London Review of Books. He has appeared on various TV and radio programmes, most shamefully ‘This Morning with Richard and Judy.’
That was longer than I expected. What’s the gist?
Paul is a writer. He has …
You can use the first person now, if you like
Thanks. I’m a writer. I write about nature, wildness, old human cultures, mysteries, myths, magic, belonging, beauty, collapse, darkness and the general confusion of being human in a world in which nothing will stay still.
Are there any profiles or interviews of you which will tell me more?
Funny you should ask:
This profile of me, written by Daniel Smith, ran in the New York Times magazine in 2014.
This one, by Erica Wagner, was published in the New Statesman in 2016.
Here’s another, by Peter Ross, from the Boston Review in 2017.
Here is a 2018 interview with me, published in Image journal.
And here is a perceptive overview of me and my work, from The Nation.
These things are always strange. They take parts of their subject and look at them through a magnifying glass. They’re not wrong, but they are of course always partial.
Can I use, reprint or share your work?
I know it’s unfashionable on the internet, but all my writing is copyrighted. If you’d like to reproduce anything you find here, please ask me first. I am often amenable. Flattery can help.
Tell me about the Wyrd School
The Wyrd School – which you can visit here – is a home for the courses and I events I run, sometimes alone, sometimes with other teachers, for writers, artists and other creative folk. My teaching, like my writing, explores how to bring humans back in contact with the non-human world, and create living art from the resulting sparks.
Through the Wyrd School I also run a manuscript assessment and mentoring service for writers.
Are you on social media?
I think ‘social’ media is a toxic miasma. My one concession to it is this occasionally-updated Facebook page. I also write an irregular email newsletter to my readers, containing news about my writing and upcoming work. You can sign up for that here.
How do I contact you?
You’re welcome to drop me an email. It sometimes takes me a while to reply, as I am not online any more than I have to be.
If you want to talk about rights, translations or other such businessy things, please get in touch with my agent, Jessica Woollard.
If you’d like an occasional newsletter about my writing, events and related things delivered to your inbox, you can sign up to my mailing list.