A few thank yous

It’s been a hell of a year for everyone. In the midst of all the difficulties there has been a lot of kindness shared, and I hope none of us will forget the importance of that as we move forward.

In the writing world I want to give a shout out to some people who have shown much kindness and generosity to me and my writing this year:

In no particular order :

Simon Webster at The Cabinet of Heed, especially for the stream of consciousness challenges during the first lockdown, when otherwise I would have written nothing.

Laura Black at Fictive Dream, who always gives a personal and thoughtful response to those submitting work.

Serene Ng and Nikki Yeo at new Singapore-based litmag Ome, who, while wanting to give a platform to Singaporean writers, also extended a welcome to contributors around the world.

Louise Walters at Louise Walters Books, for seeing my second novella into the world. I cannot thank her enough for all the time and care she has given to it, and to me.

Gary Kaill and Han Clark at Lunate, especially for trusting me to join their review team.

Paul Dunn at Cranked Anvil, for the competitions and the anthology

John Lavin at The Lonely Crowd, for including a story of mine which means a lot to me in stellar company in the very special five year anniversary issue.

Jose Varghese of Strands, for such quick turnarounds and for giving me my first competition win in a long time.

Huge thanks to them all.

And here’s to 2021 being a better year for everyone.

Looking up to the Sugar Loaf, Abergavenny
photo copyright Cath Barton

In conversation with Charmaine Wilkerson

It’s wonderful to have support from other writers. In the run-up to publication of my new novella, I had the great pleasure of talking with the brilliant writer Charmaine Wilkerson, who I have got to know through the international flash fiction community.

CW: Cath, it was a pleasure to read through your lovely novella, In the Sweep of the Bay. Your story spans decades and generations within the life of the family at the centre of this story with such finely textured language and profound insights. How would you describe this novella in one line?

CB: It’s the story of a long marriage and the persistence of happiness, in spite of all obstacles.

CW: Where did the idea of the couple at the centre of the story, Ted and Rene, come from?

CB: I don’t know! Did I see a couple like them, in that café on the seafront in Morecambe that they visited on a day out? I wonder. Certainly I went to that café, and the scene was the first section of the book that I wrote, a snapshot of Ted and Rene in later life. It was a stand-alone flash originally and I called it Keeping the Magic Alive. Thinking about it, that could have been the title of the book – it’s what’s at the core of it.

CW: One of the things I appreciate about all of your writing, not only in this novella, is your use of small, telling details in a story. Often, those details evoke a sense of place, not the least of which is the English bay, Morecambe, which is referred to in the title of the story. Which element tends to come first in terms of inspiration for your story ideas- location, character, or event?

CB: Character, I think, always. Or rather, characters moving through their lives. I see the action scrolling out like a film. You know how in a film you can ‘read’ the characters’ emotions on their faces? That’s what I hope I can conjure up for reader in prose.

CW: In this novella, the sense of place includes the interior settings evoked through your storytelling. The buzz of comradeship at the ceramics factory, the coat shop, a hotel lobby, a marital bed. Do these details just come to you in the writing or do you find you take notes in your daily life which then lend themselves to story scenes?

CB: I do wish I was good at keeping notes, because we are surrounded by characters for stories as we walk down the street, any street, on any day. But I don’t carry a notebook. I do take photographs, though; I think I have a strong visual sense, and (I hope) good intuition.

CW: The end of the story is intriguing. I don’t want to give it away here but I do want to mention that it leaves the reader thinking, is this based on a true story?

CB: No, this is pure fiction.

CW: You frequently publish short stories, in particular, flash fiction? What about your longer projects? What can readers expect to see from you next?

CB: I like the shorter forms, novella, short story, flash fiction. I used to say I’d never write a novel. But I have a couple of longer projects. One is a novel I started in NaNoWriMo in 2018, set in Nepal in the aftermath of an earthquake. The other is what think will end up as a novel based on the life of my Auntie Phyllis, who was a famous circus artiste. I feel a responsibility to write her story. Though, unhelpfully, she left few words, only pictures, so what I write has to be fiction.

However, I may just write another novella – or even two! – first. I do seem to have an affinity with the novella form. I’ve tried writing novellas-in-flash without success, but I’m thinking of having a go at a novelette-in-flash, in which each separate story is under 500 words. I’m taking advantage of Nancy Stohlman’s prompts for FlashNano this month to help me with that.

In the Sweep of the Bay is available for order through independent publisher Louise Walters Books.

Charmaine Wilkerson

Charmaine Wilkerson is an American writer who lives in Italy. Her award-winning flash fiction can be found in Best Microfiction 2020 and numerous anthologies and magazines. Her story How to Make a Window Snake won the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award in 2017 and the Saboteur Award for Best Novella in 2018. Her debut novel Black Cake is due to be published in 2022.

Keeping on writing

The time is to keep on writing. Sounds simple. And it is, but the trick is to concentrate on the the doing and not the end game.

This week I’ve completed drafts of three stories which will, in the fullness of time, form part of my Bosch collection. More of that in the months to come.

And today I found inspiration in another wonderful setting, encouragement to mine deep memory, and the company of more of my fellow writers.

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Brechfa Pool, Powys

An inspiring week

I’ve just got back from a week at Tŷ Newydd, the National Writing Centre of Wales. It’s close to the village of Criccieth in Gwynedd, North Wales, and overlooks Cardigan Bay. Dolphins swim in that bay, maybe mermaids too, for there’s more than a sprinkling of magic in the area. It’s been inspiring writers for many years.

I was one of a group of ten writers there this week. Under the guidance of tutors Francesca Rhydderch and Mavis Cheek, who complemented one another beautifully in their teaching, we ten all found that the words flowed freely in this beautiful setting. Helped not a little by the leaven of laughter – writing may be hard work, but it certainly doesn’t have to be solemn.

I came home with the drafts of two new short stories. As well as the makings of a new writing support network. And we’ve all promised to invite one another to our book launches, in the fullness of time!

 

Ty Newydd 1
The garden at Tŷ Newydd and, in the distance, the sea