For Books’ Sake http://forbookssake.net Championing Books by Women Fri, 23 Sep 2016 06:11:53 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 For Books' Sake: Championing Writing by Women since 2010. Your regular monthly dose of brilliant books, fierce feminism, music and more. Presented by Zoe Grisedale-Sherry. For Books' Sake For Books' Sake jane@forbookssake.net jane@forbookssake.net (For Books' Sake) Books, Feminism, Music and More For Books’ Sake http://forbookssake.net/wp-content/uploads/powerpress/Podcast_Logo.jpg http://forbookssake.net Manuela Salvi: How to write controversial stories http://forbookssake.net/2016/09/21/how-to-write-controversial-stories/ Wed, 21 Sep 2016 07:00:12 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31893 Manuela Salvi is the author of Girl Detached, a bold new YA novel that was banned in its home country of Italy. Here, she shares her dos and don'ts on how to write controversial stories for children and young people...

Manuela Salvi: How to write controversial stories
Manuela Salvi is the author of Girl Detached, a bold…

The post Manuela Salvi: How to write controversial stories appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Manuela Salvi is the author of Girl Detached, a bold new YA novel that was banned in its home country of Italy. Here, she shares her dos and don'ts on how to write controversial stories for children and young people...

Manuela Salvi: How to write controversial stories

Use your memory

Adults don’t know every single thing going on in children’s and teenagers’ lives. There’s a secret world, a secret language that young people share. When the parents of very young killers are seen on the news, they have this stunned look in their eyes: “We had no idea.”

We have no idea. But we can remember. We were young and we were mischievous now and then, even wicked, most of us. We used to love forbidden things, we cursed when no adults were around, we liked to challenge the rules both at home and at school. It’s how we grew up, testing the limits in one way or another.

So recollect your memories, look for authenticity and then convey it in what you write. As a writer, you should always be in the company of your young self’s ghost: the best advisor ever about what is suitable for young readers and what is not.

Unveil the lies

The first thing my screenwriting teacher said in class, a few years ago, was: “You want to be a writer? Start by finding out how many lies you have told yourself.”

I agree. We are all skilled liars because we can fake smiles and pretend to be what we are not, we don’t cry in public, we willingly fable about our choices and behaviours. And we believe what we make up!

Make a list, and begin. Once you have realised how subtle mendacity can be, you should also be able to detect anything in your story that may sound untrue to young readers.

My biggest lie? I told myself that I’d never grow up and now I’m in shock. It serves me right.

Find the shades

No topic is black and white. A good, well-balanced story will always give space to both theme (the right thing) and counter-theme (the opposite, wrong thing which sounds ominously alluring).

Take Melvin Burgess’s Junk: some gatekeepers accused him of showing the fun side of drug addiction. They didn’t realise that it was only by exploring the issue in all its shades that Burgess could be honest when trying to show how bad drugs actually are.

Honesty is everything for a controversial writer, because it allows readers to trust what they read and keeps you away from preaching.

Work on language

Yes, teenagers swear all the time. I love curse words and in my private life I’m rather foulmouthed – but my characters are not. Yes, sex is all about genitals, but I wrote a whole novel packed with explicit sex scenes without mentioning them once.

The reader can clearly understand what’s going on, my writing is utterly visual, but I’m never too specific.

Once again, I believe in shades when we write, and curse or sex words are too obvious to really unpack a feeling. Controversial writers must be honest but they don’t need to mirror reality because their playing field is still fiction.

Actually, language is the most effective tool we have to differentiate fiction from documentaries, pornography and rap music (joke intended) when we deal with tough topics.

Be inspiring

Your story should resound in your readers’ hearts thanks to your original voice and your approach to the narrative. Personally, I first create the characters that I’d have respected and cherished when I was young: everyday ‘heroes’ who make a difference.

Then I add a touch of humour even in the most tragic scenarios, just to ease the pain here and there. Lastly, I choose a bittersweet ending, a mix of hope and scars, which should leave the reader with more questions than answers.

Questions are the answer. Every controversial writer knows that.

Don’t improvise

This means one thing: research your topic. Girl Detached required distressing research into underage prostitution because I didn’t know anything about it; I wasn’t the bit slightest similar to Aleksandra (the main character), so I also needed to identify with that kind of shy-naive girl.

Research will give your work consistency; mastering your topic will make your story more substantial and you more aware that beyond fiction there are too many people who are suffering and struggling because of the issue you want to deal with.

Don’t indulge in docufiction

You have researched for months. You could take an MA on the topic. You found out millions of interesting facts that you absolutely want to include in your novel.

Think twice. Breathe. Discard. Discard. Discard again. You’re writing a novel and what really matters is the story: characters, relationships, feelings, turning points, conflict (see Sara Crossan’s One). You’re not writing an essay or reportage.

Recently I read a book about a girl who suffers from a severe injury, and I am now informed about every single medical and technical detail of her case.

But her story didn’t leave me with anything more than that, because the author let herself be carried away by her own research, and neglected the storytelling once past the inciting incident.

Don’t preach

The real controversial writer doesn’t preach and that’s exactly why she’s controversial; because she doesn’t judge her characters.

Gatekeepers, on the other hand, usually make “highly subjective value judgements” (White, 1950) because they seek to divide the entire world into Good and Evil people, and sleep well.

Of course what you think about the whole issue will shine through your writing, but you should never be tempted to turn your narrative universe into a courthouse.

Don’t be your own gatekeeper

It’s called self-censorship: you are typing something and then you wonder whether what you have just written is going to be appropriate. To avoid being questioned, you decide to edit it out.

When I was writing Girl Detached, I edited out a scene in which the main character’s friend explains to her the different shapes and sizes of boys’ ‘popsicles’. I didn’t find it gross and it was fun to write but when I re-read it, it just didn’t match the story, it wasn’t thematic.

So when you are not sure if you went too far, just ask yourself: is this really necessary to the theme? If the answer is yes, go ahead and don’t be scared – your readers will understand. Gatekeepers may not, but never mind.

Don’t give up

This is the most difficult part. I’ve had two books banned in my career and it’s a life-changing experience, especially when you are not invited to the round tables where other people discuss how harmful your work is to young readers.

I protested on social media, I wrote emails and articles to make them see my point, but nothing worked. Eventually, I left my country and started a new chapter in my writing life.

But I was sure they were wrong because of one important thing: my readers’ reaction. Young readers know better, trust them. If they love your book, if they are moved by that point of the story that makes gatekeepers wince, you hit the mark.

___________________________________________________

Manuela Salvi is the author of Girl Detached, translated by Denise Muir and out now from Bucket List Books. Find out more about Girl Detached‘s journey to publication, read an extract, or find out why it was banned in its homeland of Italy.

The post Manuela Salvi: How to write controversial stories appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
How Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi found a publisher http://forbookssake.net/2016/09/14/girl-detached-manuela-salvi/ Wed, 14 Sep 2016 07:00:13 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31875 Last year, we collaborated with translator Denise Muir on a post about a YA novel so controversial that it had been banned in its native Italy. Here, she tells us what's happened since then...

How Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi found a publisher
Translator Denise Muir tells the story of how a bold Italian YA novel found a UK publisher...

The post How Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi found a publisher appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Last year, we collaborated with translator Denise Muir on a post about a YA novel so controversial that it had been banned in its native Italy. Here, she tells us what's happened since then...

How Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi found a publisher

It was late 2014 and I’d wrapped up the translation into English of a fantastic YA novel from Italian. It hadn’t been your “normal” translation gig. There’d been no call from a publisher. The rights hadn’t been bought, it hadn’t been picked up from a prize list. No one knew this book existed. It was a story looking for a new home and I had to find it.

But first things first.

Girl Detached – or Nemmeno un Bacio Prima di Andare a Letto in the original Italian – by Manuela Salvi – was originally published in Italy in 2011.

It had been specifically commissioned by Mondadori on the back of a previous, highly successful, teen novel by Manuela. Her editor wanted a powerful story that reflected the teen experience.

Manuela Salvi decided to make the theme of her book the sexual exploitation of young girls. This decision almost marked the end of her writing career.Drawing on real conversations and mail received from readers, not to mention news stories on the subject, Manuela Salvi decided to make the theme of her book the sexual exploitation of young girls. This decision almost marked the end of her writing career in Italy.

Gatekeepers went into action, barriers went up, the book was shunned at festivals, withdrawn from shops, killed. Pushed out of existence.

Fast-forward now to March 2014, when I met Manuela Salvi at the Science Museum in London. As soon as I heard her story and read her book, I knew I wanted to help her get it published in English.

Six months later, though, when the translation was ready, the issue had become, “how on earth do we tell people about it?” This is where For Books Sake stepped into the story.

Our paths crossed at an International Translation Day panel in September 2014. I’d already submitted a sample of the book to a European Literature Night competition, but to no success. I’d written to various publishers, but without reply. We’d submitted to literary agents, but to no avail.

And then came an amazing opportunity by way of the ITD panel on female writers in translation at the British Library. Jane, director of a gutsy, groundbreaking organisation championing writing by women, agreed to publish a blog post about a gutsy female writer (Manuela Salvi) with a gritty, groundbreaking story (Girl Detached) that hadn’t just been overlooked in translation, it’d also been silenced in its original language. We couldn’t have hoped for a better break.

For Books’ Sake did an amazing job on the post, giving it both visual and editorial appeal, not to mention amazing online reach. Finally, I had something great to share and cross-post. Not just self-promotion, but content published by an independent organisation active in the publishing industry.

Mairi Kidd, managing director of Barrington Stoke, picked up the link from a Facebook post and the rest is history, they say. She immediately saw how it would fit her new Bucket List and, thanks to the cross-link to my own blog, (Sex in the news but not in our children’s books please), Mairi was able to read a sample of the English and my own blurb on the book.

Contracts were exchanged early this year. The book comes out tomorrow. If it hadn’t been for Jane and For Books’ Sake, it might still have been on my desk instead of in the hands of readers.

Working together with translator and author, For Books’ Sake created a unique opportunity to pull together a social media marketing strategy, giving it the weight and credibility it needed to put our book in the hands of the thing we needed most: a publisher.

______________________________________________

Denise Muir is a commercial and literary translator.  She is also an advocate of Italy’s indy publishing sector and promoter of strong female voices tackling big issues, as well as working in schools to champion diversity in children’s literature. Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi is published by the Bucket List this week.

The post How Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi found a publisher appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Finding Writing Inspiration on Holiday: Advice from Alison Moore http://forbookssake.net/2016/09/12/writing-inspiration-holiday-alison-moore/ Mon, 12 Sep 2016 07:00:37 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31869 I’m often asked where I get the inspiration for my novels. There is invariably more than one source: my first novel, The Lighthouse, began with a scene that popped into my head, but I also took inspiration from a trip I’d made some years earlier. In fact, I’ve noticed that, with each of my novels, a holiday has played a crucial role in the story’s origination...

alison-moore-death-and-the-seaside
Keep a diary while you're away: you might get a novel out of it!

The post Finding Writing Inspiration on Holiday: Advice from Alison Moore appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
I’m often asked where I get the inspiration for my novels. There is invariably more than one source: my first novel, The Lighthouse, began with a scene that popped into my head, but I also took inspiration from a trip I’d made some years earlier. In fact, I’ve noticed that, with each of my novels, a holiday has played a crucial role in the story’s origination...

alison-moore-death-and-the-seaside

1. The Lighthouse and keeping a diary

In 2007, I went on a walking holiday in Germany with my husband. I kept a diary – of the ferry journey and of the walk itself – not because I was planning on writing about it but to help me remember the details of our trip.

Some years later, this scene arrived in my head: a man was sitting in the kitchen of a woman with whom he had lost touch, and his shoes were hurting him. The man’s compulsion to return to this woman he had known, made me think of that circular walking holiday, so I put this man on the ferry and sent him off to Germany.

Having had the experience myself helped me to visualise his journey, and the diary I’d kept proved invaluable, helping me with this kind of detail in the book:

‘His route takes him across cornfields and then into forest. It is late August, almost autumn, harvest time, but for now the leaves are still green and there are blackberries on the bushes. The undergrowth is busy with mice and lizards and the air is full of darting insects nipping at him.’

That walking holiday was essentially research done in advance.

2. He Wants and holiday versus home

I was finalising The Lighthouse and ready to start thinking about a second novel when, in the summer of 2011, we went on a family holiday to Dorset.

We stayed on a farm, without television or radio or newspapers. We saw the farmer’s wife on arrival, and passed the occasional person when we were out walking, but other than that we were in this secluded bubble; meanwhile, rioting was breaking out in cities across England, including close to home in Nottingham.

This sense of peaceful seclusion juxtaposed with action and upheaval, led me to the dynamic in He Wants, in which Lewis and his wife have been on a quiet holiday similar to ours:

‘He becomes anxious if he does not see the news for a while; he wonders what he is missing… Arriving home, they discovered that there had been riots up and down the country, starting in London and spreading like a forest fire to the Midlands and then to the north. On hearing the news, Lewis felt a flush of excitement, and at the same time a touch of disappointment at not having realised it was happening until it was already over.’

The experience informed the core of the story, in which Lewis’s peaceful retirement is disrupted by Sydney, an old friend and ex-convict whom Lewis finds sitting at his kitchen table.

3. Death and the Seaside and looking for a story

My new novel, Death and the Seaside, deals with suggestibility and manipulation, themes I’ve wanted to write about for a long time, but the actual story was inspired by a weekend in Devon.

In autumn 2014, I was trying to come up with a short, dark story for Nightjar Press. Visiting Seaton with my family, I found that I was looking at this seaside town in a certain way, trying to draw a story out of this setting.

I took some photos of the pub, the Hook and Parrot, thinking that ‘the Hook’ had potential, as a place that might draw a character and a story to it in some way; and of the ‘NO…’ and ‘PLEASE DON’T…’ signs, which turn out to be meaningful in the story I then wrote, in which a character crosses a line.

When that short story, The Harvestman, was accepted for publication , I was working on my third novel, Death and the Seaside, which makes use of the same seaside world and even incorporates elements of that short story.

Once I know what my story is, it’s often necessary to make a further research trip. Between drafts of The Lighthouse, we went on another ferry and I made notes about the departure sequence (the raising of the ramp, the untying of the mooring ropes), about the storm and seasickness we experienced, the details of the car deck and hazard warnings.

Halfway through writing Death and the Seaside, we went back to Seaton for a week so that I could take more notes and photos. It might be vital research, but it’s also a great excuse for an extra holiday.

______________________________________________

Alison Moore’s first novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Awards (New Writer of the Year), winning the McKitterick Prize. Both The Lighthouse and her second novel, He Wants, were Observer Books of the Year.

Her short fiction has been included in Best British Short Stories and Best British Horror anthologies, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra and collected in The Pre-War House and Other Stories. Born in Manchester in 1971, she lives near Nottingham with her husband Dan and son Arthur.

Her latest novel, Death and the Seaside, is available now from Salt Publishing.

The post Finding Writing Inspiration on Holiday: Advice from Alison Moore appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
The Female Gaze: Seraphina Madsen on writing Dodge and Burn http://forbookssake.net/2016/09/05/dodge-and-burn-seraphina-madsen/ Mon, 05 Sep 2016 07:00:36 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31846 "As On the Road celebrates and turns the adventures of young men into myth, Dodge and Burn is at its heart a stor two sisters kidnapped by a malevolent, demonic psychoanalyst, held captive, and then separated in mysterious circumstances. When one of them disappears, the other begins a world-wide search to find her."

Dodge and Burn, the debut novel by author Seraphina Madsen, has been described as 'a psychedelic road trip recounted in beautifully crafted prose that pulses with frenetic energy.'

Here, Madsen describes her writing process and inspirations, and explores the idea of transcending the male gaze while writing a road trip novel, a genre typically seen as male writers' territory.

Seraphina-Madsen-Dodge-and-Burn
Seraphina Madsen, author of Dodge and Burn, on road trips novels and the female gaze...

The post The Female Gaze: Seraphina Madsen on writing Dodge and Burn appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
"As On the Road celebrates and turns the adventures of young men into myth, Dodge and Burn is at its heart a stor two sisters kidnapped by a malevolent, demonic psychoanalyst, held captive, and then separated in mysterious circumstances. When one of them disappears, the other begins a world-wide search to find her."

Dodge and Burn, the debut novel by author Seraphina Madsen, has been described as 'a psychedelic road trip recounted in beautifully crafted prose that pulses with frenetic energy.'

Here, Madsen describes her writing process and inspirations, and explores the idea of transcending the male gaze while writing a road trip novel, a genre typically seen as male writers' territory.

Seraphina-Madsen-Dodge-and-Burn

My debut novel, Dodge and Burn, was experimental from the outset. I had a vision of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth with its savage realism against magic and childhood that turns into a David Lynchian road trip.

From a literary perspective, I was aiming for a post-modern cocktail of magical realism infused with Beat, most notably William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, as well as “gonzo” popularized by Hunter S. Thompson.

I was feeling subversive and wanted to turn things on their head, to see things from other aspects, to project an alternate vision in this genre monopolized by men, in order to shift the gaze, or artistic vision, to one dominated by a female character.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac is the quintessential American road trip novel – a tale of conquest and discovery, of free spirit and adventure, youth, and loss.

It was a defining work in the post-World War II Beat and Counterculture generations, hailed by The New York Times upon its arrival, subsequently the subject of much heated debate which has continued on nearly sixty years later, cementing Jack Kerouac and On the Road’s status as American icons.

It is perhaps impossible to write a road trip novel that takes place in the U.S. without drawing comparison. I had to work with the constructs of the novel to enter into a dialogue with it as I presented my own vision.

There is no denying On the Road is a story about young men – their trials, tribulations, philosophies and brotherhood as seen through their eyes. Women are on the peripheries, objects of desire, confusion, baubles, ghosts, balls and chains.

Presenter Laura Barton poignantly describes her first reading of On the Road in the 20 February 2016 BBC Radio 4 podcast documentary series “Seriously…”:

“Like many people I first encountered the beats as a teenager, reading on the road on a greyhound bus journey across North America one summer. I was bewitched by its rhythm, and movement and landscape, by its sense of adventure. Only later did I start to think about the women. The pretty blondes and the big sexy brunettes, the blushing young woman with a Plains complexion like wild roses, the breasts and flanks and lustrous black hair of the pretty little Mexican girl. I thought about all the women left behind, the wives, girlfriends, lovers, about Marylou and Terry, and Amy and Camille. And I thought of Dean Moriarty, shouting out of a truck window, “Oh I love, love, love, women, I think women are wonderful! I love, love, love, women!” Where were all of the women? Where were their thoughts and their opinions and voices?”

With Dodge and Burn I wanted to present the world as created and navigated by a woman – to displace the balance of power found in On the Road, with the male characters a reflection of a female driven scrutiny and fantasy, rendered passive by the dominance of the female gaze, turned into an object of desire.

I wanted to overthrow the “male gaze”, a concept developed by feminist film critic Laura Mulvey in her 1975 paper “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in which she describes a cinematic world conceived and dominated by a heterosexual male vision where women are, as a consequence, made passive, distant, erotic adornments, resulting in an imbalance of power.

I sensed the female gaze contained more than a shift of power, or changing of the guards. There was something else afoot. I sought to develop a notion of what the female gaze might contain and illuminate. The idea was to create a feverish, drug-fueled road trip odyssey as seen through the lens of a female protagonist, to challenge and venerate the works that had inspired it. However, I sensed the female gaze contained more than a shift of power, or changing of the guards. There was something else afoot. I sought to develop a notion of what the female gaze might contain and illuminate.

The idea was to create a feverish, drug-fueled road trip odyssey as seen through the lens of a female protagonist, to challenge and venerate the works that had inspired it.

Laura Mulvey also posited that the female gaze had been corrupted by the male gaze because women have been conditioned by Western society to view themselves through a masculine frame of reference, and then in turn cast this gaze onto their fellow women.

Whether the female gaze is an internalized male gaze is up for debate. I personally accept I’ve been contaminated by society into identifying with the male gaze as Mulvey suggests.

I’d been obsessed for years with the work of Ernest Hemingway, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, John Steinbeck, William S. Burroughs, David Lynch, Vladimir Nabokov, Guillermo del Toro, Henry Miller, Quentin Tarantino, Cormac McCarthy, Henry James, Roberto Bolaño, J.M. Coetzee, Ryszard Kapuściński, Colin Wilson, the list goes on, mostly men.

Alexandra David-Neel’s memoir, Magic and Mystery in Tibet, was the only work by a woman to have had great influence over the content, mood, tone, and spirit of Dodge and Burn.

It’s interesting to note that Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsburg, and William S. Burroughs had also worshiped at the altar of David-Neel. But David-Neel was no ordinary woman. She was a woman to be reckoned with, moving courageously and dangerously in the world of men, challenging them as an explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist, anarchist and writer who spent nearly fifteen years in Tibet from 1912 to 1924 during a time the country was forbidden to foreigners, where she traveled and learned the customs and beliefs of the people who lived there, welcomed by royalty and lamas.

This was the kind of extraordinary woman I wanted to model my protagonist after, one with the drive, will and inquiry, the spirit, courage and grit to continue on her path as David-Neel had done in the mountains of Tibet, in the face of natural and supernatural forces and great adversity.

My heroine was to be a strong character, a fighting spirit. So in this sense David-Neel’s influence eclipsed Burroughs and Kerouac in the creation of my heroine.

I had also tried to conjure up Edie Sedgewick through photographs, films, and the sparse writings in journals. She seemed to me to be one of the last great, troubled socialites, a fawn lost in the woods, her power being in her innocence, grace, spontaneity, fragility and keenness of mind, which also made me think of Marilyn Monroe.

I also saw Eugenie like Edie, coming from privilege with its horseback riding and ballet, secluded on a compound throughout childhood, allegedly abused by her dominant and manipulative, bipolar afflicted father, let loose on the world in a state of innocence, forever fighting, going beyond her capacity, never wanting to give in until she is devoured.

Even with strong feminine influences, there remained the contamination of the “male gaze”, but I decided it didn’t bother me. It made things more interesting. I could work with the preconceptions and archetypes or dismantle them, or do something else entirely. The possibilities were endless.

As On the Road celebrates and turns the adventures of young men into myth, Dodge and Burn is at its heart a story about the girls, who then turn into young women – two sisters kidnapped by a malevolent, demonic psychoanalyst, held captive, and then separated in mysterious circumstances. The sisters philosophize and study occult wisdom they learn in captivity.

When one of them disappears, the other begins a world-wide search to find her. The majority of the novel is narrated by Eugenie through notebooks, framed by two mock news stories which present the narrative of the missing heiress.

I envisioned the structure to be like a Chinese box or a Russian doll. Intertwined with Eugenie’s notebook entries are several brief chapters in the third person describing a lone man in the woods with his dog who finds Eugenie’s notebooks, reads them and wonders at the backpack’s other contents, as he pieces together what might have happened, struggling as to whether he should get involved.

His connection to Eugenie’s story is far stranger than he could ever have imagined. In terms of the narrative voice I wanted Eugenie’s to be dominant, but capped as it were with a female and a male written news story like the cathode and anode on a battery.

Inside, Eugenie’s character would be the dominating force with the third person story of the lone man in the woods crackling through it. The structure was a part of the nature of the female gaze I was exploring, having to do with a merging of male and female gazes and the alchemy or transformation that can result.

Stylistically, I borrowed small things here and there from On the Road – some of the sentimentalism between the main characters that borders on excessively or affectedly quaint which I also thought would give the dialog a David Lynchian quality, and some of the time period’s surroundings.

But, on the whole, I turned toward the highly experimental fiction of William S. Burroughs, most notably the last three novels he wrote in his life, what many refer to as “The Red Night Trilogy” – Cities of the Red Night, The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands, whose pages are populated with talismanic magic, superstition, the occult, dream plot lines and hallucinatory imagery, shifting between autobiography and fiction, the modern day and ancient history, comic book violence and mock documentary.

I was fascinated with the visionary quality, the problems, possibilities and solutions Burroughs’ trilogy presented, awed by its beauty and lyricism, holding it to the light as an incredible, shining inspiration.

I hoped by some kind of enchantment the act of reading would possess me with some of the essence of the art inside and I would be able to carry something of it into the spirit of Dodge and Burn. (I tend to do this with every work I fall in love with.)

Again, the act of convergence and transformation was playing in my mind, which related to the way I intended to express my vision of the female gaze in the narrative.

Part of this vision included drug consumption which was also a component in the lives and work of Burroughs, Kerouac, Allan Ginsberg, the list goes on. Drug use is intertwined with music and Beat culture in On the Road, with Kerouac glorifying the spiritual, transcendent qualities of bebop jazz which is also at play in Dodge and Burn, but with the sounds and rhythms of 1990s acid house, deep house, genres of progressive techno and underground rave culture which was also inseparable from drugs.

I saw the rave phenomenon as an evolutionary offshoot of the Beat and Counterculture eras, on the brink of an explosion in technology and inevitable apocalypse.

I wanted to translate some of the rhythm, spirit, and energy of the time into the text as the Beats had done, to create a strong sense of motion, as a reflection of the music, drug use, the running from the law, death and the paranormal. The aim was to stun the reader at points, so that everything happens in slow motion like a car crash.

Added to this heady mix, the gaze in Dodge and Burn would also widen to accommodate the possibility of an already unreliable narrator’s mental illness. Given the abusive childhood the heroine endured, the likelihood of some kind of psychosis or dissociative disorder is high.

Throughout the novel, one never knows for certain whether Eugenie’s twin sister is real or imagined, whether the mania with which she writes is a result of adrenaline due to the stressful situation she and her husband find themselves in, or a mental disorder.

Are Eugenie’s visions genuine contacts with spirit entities or are they hallucinations? I wanted to explore the boundaries between the definitions of what is real and what is not, which was undoubtedly one of the concerns of Burroughs, and is a major concern in writing magical realism.

I also looked to Henry James’ for the mastery with which he dealt with these issues and the interplay of the psychological and the supernatural in Turn of the Screw.

All of this would culminate to become part of the artistic vision in Dodge and Burn. I hoped the novel would be received in the subversive nature it was written, that it has some relevance, and pushes boundaries in experimental fiction. Theories of what a “female or feminine gaze” is are few, there is still much work to be done on the subject. The ideas I’ve expressed here are experiments in order to come to a closer understanding of what the female gaze encompasses.

With Dodge and Burn the vision I attempted to create is an expression of the internalized male gaze which is inescapable, until something transcends it. I thought this transformation could occur with the merging of male and female perspectives and visions, however briefly they were immersed in each other. This is a vision of female as creator, transcending the boundaries of the male gaze, conjuring an embrace that is also an awakening.

______________________________________________

Seraphina Madsen was born in San Rafael, California and grew up on both the East and West Coasts of the United States. She taught English in France for four years and has lived in Germany, The Netherlands, and Sweden involved in the Electronic Dance Music industry. She received an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University, London. Dodge and Burn is her debut novel, published by Dodo Ink and available now.

The post The Female Gaze: Seraphina Madsen on writing Dodge and Burn appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
#5: Salena Godden and Sci-Fi Superstars http://forbookssake.net/2016/08/31/5-salena-godden-sci-fi-superstars/ Wed, 31 Aug 2016 10:08:10 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31836 Performer, poet and author Salena Godden talks to Lauren about the experience of writing and publishing her memoir, Springfield Road, as well as talking gin and tonic, feminist tits and why people compare writing poetry to masturbating in public.

Then Grace gives us the lowdown on the women sci-fi writers you have to read, from superstars Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler to contemporary authors that might not be on your radar yet. Plus all the usual podcast news, opportunities and more...

Salena-Godden
Feminist tits, the future of publishing and what memoir writing is like...

The post #5: Salena Godden and Sci-Fi Superstars appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Performer, poet and author Salena Godden talks to Lauren about the experience of writing and publishing her memoir, Springfield Road, as well as talking gin and tonic, feminist tits and why people compare writing poetry to masturbating in public.

Then Grace gives us the lowdown on the women sci-fi writers you have to read, from superstars Ursula Le Guin and Octavia Butler to contemporary authors that might not be on your radar yet. Plus all the usual podcast news, opportunities and more...

Salena-Godden

In this episode…

Lauren sat down with Salena Godden earlier this summer for an interview touching on her memoir, Bowie, the politics in poetry and her experience helping at the refugee camps in Calais. Salena is a poet, performer and author. More information about her work and upcoming performances can be found via Salena’s website and you can follow her thoughts and hilarity on Twitter.

Then Grace talks us through some of her favourite science fiction writers, featuring Clare Winger Harris, the first women to publish a story in a US sci fi journal under her own name.

The Queens of Sci Fi:
Ursula Le Guin, Margaret Atwood and Octavia Butler.
– Mary Anne Mohanraj, founder of speculative fiction magazine Strange Horizons
– .Nnedi Okorafor, author of the YA books The Shadow Speaker and Zahara the Wind Seeker, and adult novel, Who Fears Death, winner of the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel in 2011 and nominated for the 2010 Nebula Award.
Marjorie Lui, novelist and comic book writer of the novel tie in for the X Men films, Dark Mirror, and the Marvel X-Men spin off series, NYX, for which she was nominated for a GLAAD media award in 2013.

New books:
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child Parts I and II – the script of the long awaited play can be purchased basically everywhere.
The Good Immigrant by Nikesh Shulka, bringing together fifteen emerging British black, Asian and minority ethnic writers, poets, journalists and artists. In these fifteen essays about race and immigration, they paint a picture of what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that wants you, doesn’t want you, doesn’t accept you, needs you for its equality monitoring forms and would prefer you if you won a major reality show competition.

Opportunities:

Mentoring scheme by Penguin/Random House WriteNow, which will offer 150 writers the opportunity to attend publishing insight days in Birmingham, Manchester and London. It will then support 10 exceptional writers through a year-long mentoring programme.

Not mentioned but SUPER EXCITING is the For Books’ Sake 6th Birthday Party on Friday 16 September at The Star of Kings. More info and tickets can be found on the Eventbrite page.

The post #5: Salena Godden and Sci-Fi Superstars appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Memory and Misery: Memoir Writing Advice from Crystal Jeans http://forbookssake.net/2016/08/22/memoir-writing-crystal-jeans/ Mon, 22 Aug 2016 07:00:49 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31809 "Sometimes Crissy's mum is her best friend, sometimes a woman to be frightened of. A diet of Hammer horror and cake mix has hardened her heart and her arteries and even Jehovah can't bring her into line."

The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise is the new novel by Welsh author Crystal Jeans, telling the story of narrator Crissy's family, childhood and adolescence.

But the book began life as a memoir, and here Crystal divulges her secrets: when to distrust your own memories, what to expect when friends and family recognise themselves in your writing, and how not to believe your own bullshit...

Crystal_Jeans_Vegetarian_Tigers_Paradise
"Be careful. Change names. And fictionalise it to filth..."

The post Memory and Misery: Memoir Writing Advice from Crystal Jeans appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
"Sometimes Crissy's mum is her best friend, sometimes a woman to be frightened of. A diet of Hammer horror and cake mix has hardened her heart and her arteries and even Jehovah can't bring her into line."

The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise is the new novel by Welsh author Crystal Jeans, telling the story of narrator Crissy's family, childhood and adolescence.

But the book began life as a memoir, and here Crystal divulges her secrets: when to distrust your own memories, what to expect when friends and family recognise themselves in your writing, and how not to believe your own bullshit...

Crystal_Jeans_Vegetarian_Tigers_Paradise

The Perils Of Writing About Your Family

 

Be careful. Change names. No matter how affectionate your stories or kind your intentions, you will upset people. If you are (un)lucky enough to get published, you will have a deep grumbling anxiety in your belly, you’ll think it can be easily assuaged by further changes of identity (let’s make that short fat blonde man into a tall, skinny ginger man with a beard, should do the trick). But it will not be enough. Because they’ll recognise themselves, and they might not be ready for what you really think.

When my family read my book, they loved it. But once the honeymoon period had ended, my mother admitted that she was very worried about how her character would be perceived by judgemental strangers, so worried that it was eating her up. I felt like a piece of shit. You too will feel like a piece of shit. I cannot stress that enough.

The week following publication, I was a turd with shoes. I even hoped that my book would do badly – for about five minutes (I later amended that to, I hope it does so well that it makes me rich so that I can compensate my family with fancy cars and holidays to Disneyworld).

My best advice: fictionalise it to filth unless you are an absolute sweetheart who never has an unkind thing to say about anyone (in which case you run the risk of being boring) and just accept that things might get hairy.

Or just don’t do it at all.

Not convinced? Take a gander at this article discussing the repercussions of Augusten Burrough’s famous memoir, Running With Scissors. And remember – he thought his depiction of his foster family, the Finches, was affectionate.

 

Do Not Trust The Memories Of Others

 

I was writing a chapter about my dad, which I would later go on to name ‘Dad’s Drugs’. At this early point, I’d settled on writing a straight memoir and wanted to record things as faithfully as possible, so I sat my dad down, pulled out a notebook and interviewed him about his long history of drug use/abuse.

Because he thinks drugs are cool and that I’m impressed by this (I’m not), he was a keen and willing interviewee. I wrote long lists about morphine and cannabis and LSD and noted his thoughts on them.

(‘So basically, Crystal Meth is the only drug you haven’t taken?’

‘Actually I think I took that once in the eighties.’

‘Was Crystal Meth even around in the eighties?’

‘Apparently. Because I smoked a load.’)

I wrote the chapter and a couple of years later, after many direction changes (I decided to take my own advice and fictionalise it), I got it published by Honno Press.

My dad isn’t much of a reader, but there’s nothing like starring in a novel to get the pages turning. His verdict? Funny. He loved it. Except there were some things I’d written in ‘Dad’s Drugs’ that ‘didn’t happen like that.’

‘What are you on about?’ I said. ‘I literally sat down and wrote what you said word for word. I didn’t even fictionalise that bit. I still have the notes.’

He shrugged.

The man’s brain was drug-addled. A shrug was the correct response.

I felt like a piece of shit. You too will feel like a piece of shit. My best advice: fictionalise it to filth.

Do Not Trust Your Own Memories

 

It wasn’t just my dad’s memories that were iffy; I was starting to get confused about my own. Case in point: my mother once told me a story about the time my dad, an animal lover, went to work in a slaughter house. He came home to my mum half way through his first shift sobbing. Except he didn’t.

There was no sobbing. Talking about it years later, my mum told me that he came home very upset and quiet. I must have added the sobbing myself, perhaps because I liked the idea of my father being such a super-sensitive animal-loving darling that the sight of pig death moved him to tears. I had subconsciously decided to re-frame my own dad.

It does help with writing, being a born manipulator and all.

 

Kiss Goodbye To Your Real Memories

 

It took me years to get The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise into its final form. I had other projects on the go, but there were long periods where I was immersed in this world of my past. And this sort of immersion can play havoc with your recollections.

I’d go over a chapter dozens of times, changing fact (or imagined fact) to fiction, making things up, swapping identities. I did this so much that I no longer properly recall my real memories.

There’s a character called Russell who once dated my mother. Russell is a made-up name. I no longer remember the real name. He will always be Russell to me now. And he will always appear to me as he did in the scenes I set up; he is no longer a vague face floating in the ether of a twenty-year-old memory, he is a man who raises his eyebrows and licks the crisp Rizla paper with a small pink tongue-tip. *

This is the problem with memoir writing. We start to believe our own bullshit.

There are scenes that I half-fabricated that now feel more real to me than the initial memory. Such as my parents telling me and my sister that we would be leaving the faith (we were Jehovah’s Witnesses up until that point). I couldn’t remember how it really happened so I set up a scene.

And now, when I try to think back to that time, I imagine that scene: my mum on the sofa with her beefy leg up on the cushion, my dad picking his nose, rain outside.

It’s like I dragged down an emaciated old christmas tree from the attic, and seeing its bareness, I overcompensated with hundreds of baubles and yards of tinsel, and now all I can see is baubles and tinsel and there are only glimmers of green artificial leaves poking through, and it’s important that the tree is artificial in this analogy, because even the memories we think are real might not be real.

I’m not saying I mind. I’ve got a fricking book published.

Screw my memories.

*I’m totally lying here for convenience. I do remember Russell’s real name and there is no scene in which he licks a Rizla paper and raises his eyebrows. But I did forget his real name for about three days. You know you’ve arrived as a writer when you find yourself lying about lying.

___________________________________

The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise is the debut novel by Crystal Jeans. It was published by Honno Press earlier this year. Order it here or read an extract.

The post Memory and Misery: Memoir Writing Advice from Crystal Jeans appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Girls, Girls, Girls: Rosalind Jana recommends the Best Fiction About Young Women http://forbookssake.net/2016/08/08/girls-girls-girls-rosalind-jana-recommends-the-best-fiction-about-young-women/ Mon, 08 Aug 2016 07:00:49 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31777 There’s been an absolute glut of books with the word ‘girl’ in the title in the last few years. Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl on the Train, How to Build a Girl, Girls on Fire, and Emma Cline’s recently released The Girls all spring to mind (as does Lena Dunham’s TV series Girls).

Here, Rosalind Jana - author of Notes on Being Teenage - explores the literary landscape's obsession with girls, gives us the lowdown on highlights past and presents, and looks into what we need next...

Girls_Girls_Girls_Neon
Girls are everywhere, but what are the best books about young women?

The post Girls, Girls, Girls: Rosalind Jana recommends the Best Fiction About Young Women appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
There’s been an absolute glut of books with the word ‘girl’ in the title in the last few years. Gone Girl, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl on the Train, How to Build a Girl, Girls on Fire, and Emma Cline’s recently released The Girls all spring to mind (as does Lena Dunham’s TV series Girls).

Here, Rosalind Jana - author of Notes on Being Teenage - explores the literary landscape's obsession with girls, gives us the lowdown on highlights past and presents, and looks into what we need next...

Girls_Girls_Girls_Neon

I want to talk about actual girls though. Or, at least, young women. I want to talk about how they’re represented in books: for better, and for worse. There are some very big, necessary conversations currently happening about what kinds of characters we see, and what narratives could be better represented.

While working on my book, Notes on Being Teenage, I spent a lot of time thinking about all the versions of girls we see on the page, on screen, in newspaper headlines. To explore them all would take up an entire book, so I’m going to stick with fiction.

What Went Before

 

I grew up reading complex, nuanced depictions of girls and teenagers. People like Lyra Belacqua in Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy; Sephy Hadley in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses; Hester Shaw in Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines; Cassandra Mortmain in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle; any of the characters written by Geraldine McCaughrean, Celia Rees, David Almond, Jamila Gavin, Tim Bowler or Alan Garner.

There were Louise Rennison and Meg Cabot, often hilariously capturing the ins and outs of being teenage. A set of protagonists that ranged from smart to ferocious to quietly observant. I lived in a literary world populated with possibility: with girls who were resourceful, capable, honest, entertaining.

I lived in a literary world populated with possibility: with girls who were resourceful, capable, honest, entertaining.I also read my fair share of dodgy books . Ones in which young women were less flesh-blood-and-breath, more two-dimensional trope. Ones where they were just love interests, or obsessed with boys and little else; where losing their virginity (always framed as a loss, not a gain) was the most important thing ever; where mental health was reduced to a ‘quirky’ personality facet, or treated in ways verging on sensationalist; where what the main character really needed was some lovely young man to come along and ‘fix’ them (with little in the way of LGBT relationships).

All of those areas are worthy of writing about. In fact, they need to be written about, but with research and understanding and reflection, not flimsy cardboard stereotypes.

Those novels formed and informed my thinking. The best of them gave me a way to contextualize or work out things. Others offered a sense of possibility. Plenty allowed me to slip into worlds beyond my own, to escape the confines of my own life for an hour or two. They were the important ones. The ones I’m grateful for. Rosalind_Jana_Notes_On_Being_Teenage

What’s Happening Now?

 

Now, there are many people offering up even more marvellous narratives in YA. Plenty that I wish had been around when I was a teenager. People like Holly Bourne: her Spinster series sparkling with fabulous feminist sentiment.

Or Louise O’Neill: opening up conversations about everything from body image to sexual assault in her hard-hitting books Only Ever Yours and Asking for It.

There’s Frances Hardinge’s The Lie Tree: a romp of a read that also explores profound gender inequality in the 1890s. There’s Louise Gornall’s Under Rose-Tainted Skies with its tender, honest exploration of agoraphobia and OCD.

There are authors like Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Juno Dawson, Jenny Han, Sarah Crossan, Julie Kagawa, Lisa Williamson, Nicola Yoon, Rainbow Rowell, Zana Fraillon, Natasha Ngan, and a myriad of others doing brilliant things.

When it comes to graphic novels, there’s the often-complicated exploration of desire in Phoebe Gloeckner’s The Diary of a Teenage Girl; the entertaining and unflinching exploration of girlhood in Iran in Marjane Satrapi’s autobiography Persepolis; the forceful trio of young punks who want to do their own thing in Coco Moodyssen’s Never Goodnight.

In the realms of more adult books, I love the young twins at the heart of Helen Oyeyemi’s Icarus Girl, and the teens on the strange cusp of sexuality and adult life in Daisy Johnson’s Fen.

When I asked on Twitter for people’s favourite representation of a girl/ teenager/ young woman in a book, I got a staggering number of responses. Someone told me how important it was to see a character like Willowdean in Julie Murphy’s Dumplin because it offered her “one of the first fat teen characters that nails my experience as a plus-size teenager”.

Others stressed the brilliance of characters ranging from Garth Nix’s Sabriel to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley. The general consensus was that these characters had affected them deeply. Some showed them they weren’t alone. Others opened up vistas into experiences they’d never considered.

Where next?

 

It’s important to celebrate the good, whilst also working out what should lie ahead. We need more stories about teenagers of all sizes, all sexualities, all skin colours, all family scenarios, all classes. More narratives about disability. About a full range of mental health problems. About what it means to negotiate gender. Although it might be easy to just lapse into listing here, it’s important to pinpoint every single one of these areas. Each signals a multitude of tales. Each is about the complexity and honesty of being human.

The Geena Davis Institute, set up to tackle representation in film, has a slogan: “if she can see it, she can be it.” Perhaps the same can be said of fiction: “if she can read it, she can be it.”

Now I’m not suggesting that we all move into crumbling castles a la Cassandra Mortmain, or find ourselves catapulted into some fantastical realm where we have a limited amount of time to save the world.

Instead it’s about the depths and possibilities of experience that these characters offer. Real, recognizable traits: courage, fragility, not fitting in, you name it….

It’s about the breadth of possibility, of being able to pick up a book and recognize something in the protagonist, or find some kind of spark of inspiration, or move beyond the confines of your own life. It’s about storytelling. And oh, are there are lot of girls’ stories left to be told.

______________________________________________

Rosalind Jana is 21-year-old student and writer from a tiny UK village. Her debut non-fiction book ‘Notes on Being Teenage‘ is out now. She has  written for British Vogue, Broadly, BBC Radio 4, The Debrief, The Guardian, Oxfam and Teen Tatler, and is Junior editor on Violet Magazine.

Top image via Shadowfoot

The post Girls, Girls, Girls: Rosalind Jana recommends the Best Fiction About Young Women appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Historical Fiction in Translation http://forbookssake.net/2016/08/01/historical-fiction-translation/ Mon, 01 Aug 2016 07:00:17 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31768 It's August, and that means Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) is here once again. To celebrate, we've got author and HerStoryNovels.com founder Jyotsna Sreenivasan, with the lowdown on the best translated historical fiction written by women. Take a tour round the world with these four fantastic historical novels, exploring witches, mystery, religion and seduction...

Historical_Fiction_by_Women_In_Translation
Celebrate #WITMonth with four fantastic historical novels written by women...

The post Historical Fiction in Translation appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
It's August, and that means Women in Translation Month (#WITMonth) is here once again. To celebrate, we've got author and HerStoryNovels.com founder Jyotsna Sreenivasan, with the lowdown on the best translated historical fiction written by women. Take a tour round the world with these four fantastic historical novels, exploring witches, mystery, religion and seduction...

Historical_Fiction_by_Women_In_Translation

Did you know that gender discrimination in publishing extends to translation? Only 30% of new English translations are books by women, according to Meytal Radzinski’s web site, Biblibio.

In response to this disparity, Radzinski (a former Hebrew-English translator who lives in Israel) spearheaded Women in Translation Month (August). As she states on her web site, “As a bilingual reader, I know just how many gems are lying around untranslated.”

I’ve recently started a website and blog devoted to historical fiction by women, about women (HerStoryNovels.com). I’m focusing on classic and “literary” historical novels, and aim to include comprehensive lists of fiction available in English that fit my criteria.

Predictably, most of the books on my lists take place in English-speaking countries, and most are written by authors whose native language is English. But I have recently read some wonderful historical fiction in translation, which – in celebration of Women in Translation Month – I’ll be highlighting below.

So, if you’re in need of #WITMonth inspiration August, here’s four fantastic options to explore…

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem by Maryse Condé (translated from French by Richard Philcox)

Maryse Condé is an African-Caribbean writer who became fascinated by the historical figure Tituba, a slave from Barbados who was accused of witchcraft in the 1692 Salem, Massachusetts Witch Trials.

Condé could find very few facts about her life, so she decided to imagine her life in fictional form. This short novel is told by Tituba herself, and spans a lifetime, from her conception to her death.

She is a healer who normally uses her skills to help people, although she can be provoked to revenge. Because Tituba is telling her story from beyond the curtain of death, she is sometimes detached and even mocking when describing her own suffering.

Purge by Sofi Oksanen (translated from Finnish by Lola Rogers)

Although she lives in Finland and writes in Finnish, Oksanen is of Estonian origin, and Purge takes place in Estonia. The novel alternates between chapters that take place in the 1990s, and chapters from the 1930s to 1950s.

The story begins with an elderly woman, Aliide, finding an injured young woman in her yard. Against her better judgment Aliide invites the young woman (Zara) into the house and takes care of her.

We soon realize that Zara knows who Aliide is and has been looking for her, although Aliide does not know Zara. What is the connection between Zara and Aliide? Why is Zara looking for her?

These are just the first of many mysteries which the author develops in this gripping political novel. Originally published in 2010, this novel has since been translated into more than fifty languages.

Kristin Lavransdatter: The Wreath by Sigrid Undset (translated from Norwegian by Tiina Nunnally)

You may have heard of this book; the author won a Nobel Prize. Originally published in 1920, this is a coming-of-age novel of a young Catholic woman living in Norway in the 1300s.

The characters are vivid and Kristin’s anguish about love and religion is very relatable. The author excels at bringing to life the scenery and way of life of medieval Norway. If you have not read this book yet, you are in for a treat.

The Lost Daughter of Happiness by Geling Yan (translated from Chinese by Cathy Silber)

Even though Geling Yan lives in the United States, she prefers to write in Chinese. First published in Taiwan in 1996, this novel takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1860s and 1870s.

It tells the story of the mysterious, beautiful Chinese woman, Fusang, and her effect on those around her. The novel is told from multiple points of view: a conventional narration in third person, as well as first-person sections told by a 21st century Chinese-American researcher, who addresses Fusang as “you.” An unusual, beautiful novel.

________________________________________

Jyotsna Sreenivasan‘s novel And Laughter Fell from the Sky was published in 2012 by HarperCollins. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. She is also the author of novels for children and reference books for high school and college students. She is the founder of HerStoryNovels.com, which showcases the best in historical fiction by and about women.

The post Historical Fiction in Translation appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
#4: Just F***ing Do It at Grrrl Con 2016 http://forbookssake.net/2016/07/18/grrrl-con-2016-podcast/ Mon, 18 Jul 2016 15:21:41 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31743 The first ever Grrrl Con took place in Edinburgh in June 2016, and we've only just recovered. Here, Grace and Lauren interview speakers, attendees and get the ultimate in writing advice from authors Denise Mina, Kirsty Logan and Marjorie Lofti-Gill, along with tips from lit agent Jenny Brown.

Radio-Studio
The lowdown from the authors at the first ever Grrrl Con...

The post #4: Just F***ing Do It at Grrrl Con 2016 appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
The first ever Grrrl Con took place in Edinburgh in June 2016, and we've only just recovered. Here, Grace and Lauren interview speakers, attendees and get the ultimate in writing advice from authors Denise Mina, Kirsty Logan and Marjorie Lofti-Gill, along with tips from lit agent Jenny Brown.

Radio-Studio

In this episode…

Interview with Jenny Brown:

Founder of Jenny Brown Associates, one of the UK’s leading literary agencies, Jenny was previously Head of Literature at the Scottish Arts Council, presenter of book programmes for Scottish Television, and founder Director of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. She is also a former Committee member of the Association of Authors’ Agents and was shortlisted in 2014 for the Agent of the Year Award. In this interview, Jenny Brown outlines the role of an agent, gives more insight into the world of publishers and tells us what writers we should look out for in the coming months (including Chitra Ramaswamy, who wrote about her book Expecting for For Books’ Sake recently).

Independent Publishers:

Throughout Grrrl Con, lots of the speakers gave shout-outs to the work of publishers. Lauren talks about a few independent publishers based around the UK. Her list is by no means exhaustive (of course!) and we would love to hear from you about any publishers that you really rate, so email us with your suggestions.Here are the publishers mentioned in the podcast, with a few resources thrown in there for good measure too…

Independent publishers:

Virago
Peepal Tree Press
Dahlia Publishing
Jacaranda
Tilted Axis Press
Galley Beggar Press

Additional resources
Spread the Word
Writers and Artists
Forgot to mention: Creative Access

Top Tips from Kirsty Logan and Marjorie Lofti Gill

Kirsty Logan – who shares her top four tips for writing magic realism in this episode – is the author of the short story collection The Rental Heart and Other Fairytales (Salt, 2014), which was recently awarded the Polari First Book Prize, and debut novel The Gracekeepers (Harvill Secker, 2015). Her latest book, A Portable Shelter (ASLS, 2015), is a collection of stories inspired by Scottish folktales.

Marjorie Lofti Gill is the poet in Residence at Jupiter Artland and co-founder of The Belonging Project, which reflects on the flight, journey and assimilation of refugees, and Open Book, a charity running shared reading and writing groups for adults in the community. Marjorie’s poems have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies in the UK and US, and have been performed on BBC Radio 4. Marjorie ran a workshop on how to construct the perfect sentence, and gives us some advice on how to craft our words.

Interview with Denise Mina

Dame Denise Mina is a critically acclaimed Glaswegian crime writer. Her novels include The End of the Wasp Season and Gods and Beasts, both of which won the prestigious Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award in consecutive years. Denise also writes short stories and plays, and is the author of the Garnethill trilogy. She was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame in 2014. Grace and Lauren got to chat to Denise after her talk on the final day of Grrrl Con, asking for advice on how to just get on and do it, in what ways can we prioritise our writing, and how to take critical feedback. She advised ditching the gym and bribing ourselves with KitKats alongside other essential tips.

A big thank you to all of our featured guests for sharing your words of wisdom with us and for taking the time to sit down with us and chat. A special thanks has to go out to Grrrl Con organisers Jane Bradley, Claire Askew and Kerry Ryan, for a fabulous weekend. Also thanks to all of the volunteers over the weekend for making sure we knew where we were to go and what was coming next (Charlotte Forfieh, we’re looking at you!) And finally to the amazing grrrls, all those who agreed to be a part of our podcast and everyone else for making the weekend such a success. It was great to meet you all – roll on next year!

The post #4: Just F***ing Do It at Grrrl Con 2016 appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy http://forbookssake.net/2016/06/24/expecting-chitra-ramaswamy-pregnancy/ Fri, 24 Jun 2016 07:00:50 +0000 http://forbookssake.net/?p=31643 In the pregnancy and birth sections of bookshops, "women - always straight, usually white, often pony-tailed - smile serenely from the covers of big, heavy authoritative books while stroking their big, heavy, authoritative 'bumps'."

But until Chitra Ramaswamy wrote Expecting, there were no books describing the experience of pregnancy from the inside. Here, she explains how pregnancy was nothing like she imagined, and how it prompted her to explore art, literature and family history...

Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy
"It was nothing like I imagined it would be." Chitra Ramaswamy explains why she wrote Expecting...

The post Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>
In the pregnancy and birth sections of bookshops, "women - always straight, usually white, often pony-tailed - smile serenely from the covers of big, heavy authoritative books while stroking their big, heavy, authoritative 'bumps'."

But until Chitra Ramaswamy wrote Expecting, there were no books describing the experience of pregnancy from the inside. Here, she explains how pregnancy was nothing like she imagined, and how it prompted her to explore art, literature and family history...

Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy

I was 34 years old when I became pregnant. I had spent more than three decades walking around in my body, inhabiting my skin as unthinkingly as I had lived in my home as a child. The wallpaper so familiar I no longer felt the embossed ridges beneath my fingers (it was the eighties – textured walls were a thing), the smells so intimate they had long become indecipherable to my nose.

Then I got pregnant – not easily either, but that’s another story – and for nine months the home became hotel. Suddenly I had a longterm guest, this peculiar little character banging against the walls of my womb and demanding, well, everything from me: room service, 24/7 concierge, blood, organs, the lot. It was nothing like I imagined it would be.

Meanwhile, the rest of me was changing too. Not just my body but my perspective. Not just the stretching skin, mysterious rashes, nausea, quickening, glossy hair, hands on fire, fattening feet, monstrous hormones, bleeding gums, pelvic girdle pain, and, always, always the marvellous and relentless ballooning of my belly.

Other changes were less visible but no less powerful. A fascination with my family history, illness and death. A heightened awareness of the business of being alive that was not unlike falling in love. Joyous, but painful too because it carried within it, always, always the threat of loss.

It seemed the more the baby fattened inside my body, stubbornly and mysteriously becoming itself, the less I knew myself. And the more I wanted to know.It seemed the more the baby fattened inside my body, stubbornly and mysteriously becoming itself, the less I knew myself. And the more I wanted to know.

“The face / Went on shaping itself with love, as if I was ready,” wrote Sylvia Plath in her only play, Three Women, a remarkable account of three very different pregnancies.

This was not the pregnancy I had unwittingly imagined from the outside, the beatific and hermetically sealed state constructed by books, films, news, and a society bent on monitoring, controlling and misrepresenting it.

This was so much more weird, difficult and interesting than that. It was the curiously silenced story of how each and every one of us began.

I went looking for a book that might tell this tale in those oddly sanitised pregnancy and birth sections of shops. Where women – always straight, usually white, often pony-tailed – smile serenely from the covers of big, heavy authoritative books while stroking their big, heavy, authoritative ‘bumps’ (as they’re known in the disembodied language of pregnancy).

What did I find? A whole industry’s worth of manuals, month-to-month, week-to-week and even day-to-day guides, humorous books, pink books, frustrated books, fertility books, medical books, and the occasional feminist polemic.

What I didn’t find was a book that illuminated the experience from the inside, spilling the secrets of what it felt like to inhabit a pregnancy in the same way a foetus inhabits a body. A book that told the story of a woman’s pregnancy but also delved into some of the history and literature that had constructed it, or perhaps papered over it.

In the spirit of Toni Morrison, who famously said “if there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,” I decided to do just that.

To write a book of nine chapters for the nine months of pregnancy and birth. A memoir of sorts that would also be a travelogue, a philosophical inquiry, an extended piece of nature writing where the gravid body stood in for the landscape.

The idea, at least, was born. The book, like the baby, took longer. In the end I started to write Expecting weeks after my son was born. Though I had tried to write it while I was pregnant I was too exhausted, too consumed by the thing itself to make sentences out of it.

Instead, while I was pregnant, I read books. Birth scenes in Anna Karenina, Ulysses, The Handmaid’s Tale and Beloved. The poetry of Sylvia Plath, Sharon Olds and Muriel Rukeyser whose laconic poem, Islands, opens with the wonderfully fractious lines: ‘O for God’s sake / they are connected underneath’. The perfect metaphor for the pregnant state, which is one of both isolation and deep belonging.

I read and reread Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain, a masterpiece of nature writing and a love letter to the Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands that has zilch to do with pregnancy but somehow become the overriding metaphor of those nine months. The pregnant body as living mountain: the mysterious insides that can never be truly revealed.

I watched All About My Mother by Pedro Almodovar and thought about how anyone can be a mother. Like my partner, who as a woman would be our child’s mother though the baby would not be birthed from her belly.

I watched Gone With The Wind for the millionth time in my life (what is it about that long, cruel, deeply dodgy film?) and realised how much of my misunderstanding of childbirth was born from that dark scene in Atlanta when Scarlett is forced to deliver Melanie’s baby amidst the death throes of the Old South. I wondered how on earth I would write the story of my own labour. I wondered how I would live it.

Expecting is a strange book, which seems appropriate for such a strange subject. Like most books – and indeed children – it started off as mine and then scooted off in its own direction.

I ended up telling the story of my mother’s birth in her grandmother’s house in Bangalore and my father’s arrival in London from that same southern Indian metropolis in autumn of 1967.

I ended up criss-crossing the world from a small curve of sand in the Maldives to a egg-shaped island off Mull in the Hebrides where I spectacularly lost the plot in my eighth month of pregnancy. And then ate a load of shellfish.

I ended up writing about a shark dive in the Firth of Forth, my mother’s breast cancer, and a mind-blowing nineteenth century painting by Gustave Courbet called The Origin of the World.

Expecting became a book about death as much as birth. It became a book about life.


Expecting by Chitra Ramaswamy is out now, published by Saraband 

The post Expecting: Chitra Ramaswamy on pregnancy, metaphor, pain and joy appeared first on For Books’ Sake.

]]>