The Writing Process with Joanna Walsh

Fractals cover Chrystal_lowresportrait b&w Joanna

Today, I’d like to welcome Joanna Walsh to the blog, she is going to talk about her short story collection, Fractals which is launched today and about her work and writing process.

1) CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR WORK?

I’m a writer. I’ve also been an illustrator for years (mostly for newspapers) though I seldom do the two together.

2) YOUR SHORT STORY COLLECTION, FRACTALS, IS LAUNCHED TODAY. CAN YOU TELL THE READERS OF THIS BLOG HOW THE COLLECTION CAME TOGETHER AND WHERE AND HOW READERS CAN BUY THE BOOK?

I wrote the stories in Fractals intensively over a relatively short period of time (a few months) during a break up. They were some of the first stories I’d written and, during that time, I wrote a story almost every day. I sat at a white table piled up with most of my belongings, most of which seemed to no longer belong anywhere. While I decided what to do with them, and where I would go, I wrote and, although writing is almost nothing physical, it was an anchor. I rejected lots of the stories (though I still have them, and most will probably resurrect somewhere, and in some form); and some merged to form longer stories. I was frightened by the amount I wrote. I though I wouldn’t be able to stop.

It’s available here: http://www.galleybeggar.co.uk/book-store/3am-press/fractals-by-joanna-walsh-a-3am-press-paperback/

and also at some bookshops: Blackwell in Oxford, The London Review of Books Bookshop, and Shakespeare and Company, Paris.

3) THERE HAS BEEN A SURGE OF INTEREST IN SHORT STORIES RECENTLY, AS WELL AS SHORT STORY WRITERS HAVING BEEN AWARDED SOME MAJOR LITERARY PRIZES. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS, AND WHY HAS IT TAKEN SO LONG?

I think the UK is very different from the US: in the US, writing short stories us a business (see Chad Harbach’s essay at n+1 Magazine,
(http://www.nplusonemag.com/mfa-vs-nyc), in the UK, it’s an eccentricity. Internet-habituated, I read in snatches, and this seems to suit the form. Perhaps this is one of the reasons behind recent celebrations of short story writers (though I think award-winners, Munro and Davis would have been celebrated anyway). It’s good to see some publishers – Comma Press, with Gimbal ( http://www.letsgimbal.com/ ) and Peirene, who publishes novellas – looking at ways to bring this style of reading together with something that answers it.

4) AS BOTH A WRITER AND VISUAL ARTIST CAN YOU TELL ME WHO YOUR LITERARY AND ARTISTIC INFLUENCES ARE?

I’ll read anything by Georges Perec, Clarice Lispector, Italo Calvino, Jean Rhys, Marguerite Duras, Lydia Davis, Robert Walser, Elfriede Jelinek, Deborah Levy, Anne Carson, Christine Brooke-Rose, Denise Riley, Ben Marcus, Chris Kraus…many others.
I like looking at artists and illustrators who work with/around text and storytelling: Felix Vallotten, Xiame Hernandez, Aubrey Beardsley, Roman Muradov, Floc’h; Dada designers; Louise Bourgeois, Sophie Calle.

5) YOU RUN THE VERY POPULAR READ WOMEN 2014 CAMPAIGN. WHY DO YOU FEEL SUCH A CAMPAIGN IS NECESSARY?

It’s started running me! I was surprised that such a modest proposal, based on some bookmarks I made, sparked something. I didn’t want the hashtag, or the @readwomen Twitter account, to reflect my own views on women’s writing , so I do a lot of retweeting, and bringing people and groups together – much of the input comes from the people who want to get involved.

Of course, women are prominent in, even dominate, some writing genres but, looking at the VIDA statistics, they are still under-appreciated in the area called, for want of a better term, ‘literary’, and this seems odd. Again and again I get emails and tweets from people who ‘thought’ they’d been reading women/men more or less 50/50 but when they counted up, found they were reading 20%, 30% women. I’d never suggest a quota on ‘good’ writing, but a willingness to read widely, attentively and adventurously is a practice in which everybody – the reader, the writer, the journal reviewer – wins. As Deborah Levy said recently in The Observer, ‘if we don’t read books by women, we’re missing essential data’.

6) WHO ARE YOUR FAVOURITE FEMALE WRITERS AND WHY?

The same as my favourite writers (minus the men): Lispector, Rhys,Duras, Levy,Davis, Brooke-Rose, Jelinek, Carson etc…Irrespective of sex, I enjoy writers who can be playful about being passionate, who use fiction for argument (I mean discussion, not shouting), who can work at several levels at once, and who can turn on a hair.

7) IF YOU COULD PASS A PIECE OF ADVICE ONTO A NEW WRITER, WHAT WOULD THAT ADVICE BE?

Pay close attention to whats going through your head. Don’t try to think like someone else because it seems more professional, correct, or moral.

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