Tag Archives: storytelling

Magic is alive

     
“I don’t think magic belongs to one culture or another. It is a part of family, history, tradition – it is everywhere.”
     
– Alice Hoffman
              
*
  
Recommendations
  
The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende


 
 
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, Jorge Amado

     
  

Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon, Jorge Amado

      
              
 
The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

      

 
Invisible Cities
, Italo Calvino


                   
 
Nights at the Circus, Angela Carter

     

 
The Magic Toyshop
, Angela Carter

 
The Bloody Chamber
, Angela Carter


  

Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel

 
Love in the Time of Cholera
, Gabriel García Márquez

 
One Hundred Years of Solitude
, Gabriel García Márquez

     

 
Chocolat
, Joanne Harris

     

   
The World to Come, Dara Horn

     
 
  
The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

     

 
The Third Policeman
, Flann O’Brien

     

 
The Famished Road
, Ben Okri

     

   
Songs of Enchantment, Ben Okri

     

 
Stars of the New Curfew
, Ben Okri

     

 
My Name is Red
, Orhan Pamuk

  
Bel Canto, Ann Patchett

     

 
Jitterbug Perfume
, Tom Robbins

    

 
Midnight’s Children
, Salman Rushdie

     

  
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie

     

 
Of Bees and Mist
, Erick Setiawan

 

     
The Girl with Glass Feet, Ali Shaw

     

 
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
, Patrick Süskind

     

 
Broken Things
, Padrika Tarrant

  
    

Lighthousekeeping, Jeanette Winterson

        
  


  
More magical writers

    
Kathleen Alcalá, Aimee Bender, Louis de Bernières, Jorge Luis Borges, Ray Bradbury, A.S. Byatt, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Peter Carey, Alejo Carpentier, Susanna Clarke, Julio Cortazar, Mia Couto, Katherine Dunn, Louise Erdrich, Jeffrey Eugenides, Connie May Fowler, Janet Frame, Carlos Fuentes, Neil Gaiman, Günter Grass, Mark Helprin, Alice Hoffman, Zora Neale Hurston, Franz Kafka, Kelly Link, Yann Martel, Zakes Mda, Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami, Audrey Niffenegger, Milorad Pavic, Lily Prior, Jonathan Safran Foer, José Saramago, Amy Tan, Luisa Valenzuela, Mario Vargas Llosa, Alice Walker, Virginia Woolf, Carlos Ruiz Záfon

Jo Hemmant’s ‘The Den’

Jo Hemmant

Jo Hemmant

  
Jo Hemmant spent many years working as a journalist and editor and only began writing poetry the day her youngest son started school. Her work has appeared in or is upcoming at Horizon Review, qarrtsiluni, blossombones, bluefifth review, Equinox, South, Decanto, Dream Catcher, Fire and Obsessed with Pipework. She lives with her husband, her two sons, aged eight and six and a menagerie in the burbs outside London. Last year she co-founded ouroboros review, a poetry and art journal that appears both online and in print, and set up Pindrop Press, a small independent poetry press. The first book is due off the presses in 2010.
  
  
The den
Jo Hemmant
 
For his sixth birthday, a tent.
Two-man, pop-up, no tripping
over a cat’s cradle of guy ropes and pegs.
 
It covers most of the floor in his room,
is kitted out with what boys like –
Top Trumps, action figures, plastic insects.
He begs me to read to him there that night.
  
Crawling in, I notice that the millimetre-thin skin
cuts out noise, the air’s new with polymers.
We shine a moon on the roof with the torch
and find ourselves in a field, staring up
through a plastic square at a sky
deep and dark as a coal mine’s throat.
  
Outside, the fire has cooled to amber.
Menace storybooks the woods.
  
  
Read more of Jo’s work in Horizon Review.

An interview with Annie Clarkson

Annie Clarkson is a poet, fiction writer and social worker who was born in Kendal in 1973, grew up in an East Lancashire mill town, and now lives in Manchester with her cat.  Her first chapbook of poems, Winter Hands, was published in 2007 by Shadowtrain Books.  She has short stories and prose poems published in Brace (Comma Press), Unsaid Undone (Flax Books) and in various magazines and online journals:  Dreamcatcher, Pygmy Giant, Mslexia, Succour, Transmission and Tears in the Fence.  She is currently working on a collection of ‘short shorts’.  Annie blogs at forgetting the time.
   
 
Annie, tell me something of your family origins and what you were like as a child.  will you describe growing up in an East Lancashire mill town?
  
My family is from North West England.  I lived in Cumbria until the early 80s.  It was a strange mix of experiences:  beautiful mountains in the Lake District, an affluent town, spending time with mum’s hippy friends, hanging out in my grandparents’ guest house, digging vegetables in the garden, and then all the lodgers that were taken in by the family:  old blokes who were alcoholics, on probation or homeless, and one young lodger who was a drug addict.
   
When we moved to Lancashire, it was a big change.  More working class:  rows of red brick terraces, cotton mills in the valley (one of them still working, the others abandoned), a CND camp of travellers on the hillside, working men’s clubs, cobbled streets.  There were more social problems, and even at age eleven I noticed the vast difference in the way people lived their lives.  I spent most of my time either out of the house, walking in the river, hanging around the mill yards, playgrounds, wasteland, fields on the edge of town, or in my room hiding away with books and writing stories.
   
Would you talk about your career as a social worker?  Does your work inform your writing?
  
I’m drawn to certain issues in my work and in my writing:  difficult relationships, dysfunction, violence, mental ill-health, loss, abuse.  I never write directly about my work.  My characters are imagined.  Their situations are imagined.  But, I’ve been exposed in my work to a lot of situations that hopefully help me to write in a more emotionally authentic way.
  
Have you considered creative writing tutoring and running writing workshops?

  
I hope to branch out into running workshops and classes later this year.  I have hundreds of ideas of how to prompt and inspire good writing, for beginners and more experienced writers.
 
I’m working on an idea with an artist friend of mine to run a regular workshop in Manchester incorporating art and poetry, so creative-minded people can work on developing handmade books, posters, and other things that combine image and text.  It’s in the early stages of development.  I hope it might lead to work as a tutor or perhaps more workshops.
 
Will you describe your creative space?
  
I write anywhere.  I often write in bed in one of many notebooks.  I write on the settee in my pyjamas.  I write at the table while I eat dinner.  Sometimes I write straight onto my laptop.  Other times I scrawl on a random piece of paper, an envelope, the back of a cinema ticket, a napkin.
  
I often write in cafes, or in a gallery, or on a bench in the park, in my car in a lay-by, or at writing workshops.  Writing is a creative place where I can disappear and enter into another life or lives for a short time.
  
In 2007, Shadowtrain Books published Winter Hands.  Tell me about the book’s themes and how you settled on the title.
 
Winter Hands is a short little book.  It’s a glimpse; a starting point for me as a poet.  The poems in the chapbook are trying to make sense of certain things:  relationships, dysfunctions, breakdowns, illness, the small nuances of life that are not easy to understand.  These are my first explorations into the spaces between prose and poetry, the boundaries, the grey areas.
  
I played with a number of titles.  Winter Hands seemed the most apt to me at the time.  There is something that connects in these poems between the sensuality of touch and the cruelty and barrenness of winter.
  
What feeling would you like readers to experience after reading your collection?
 
Hmm, that’s a difficult question.  If a reader experiences any kind of feeling after reading these poems, then wow.  It is difficult for me as a writer to imagine how a reader might respond.  I hope readers might find at least one poem that they can relate to on a personal level.
 
To be honest, I’ve been overawed by the few comments people have made.  One reviewer wrote:  “Her writing makes you ache long after you have closed the book”.  I had to pinch myself that someone had written that about my writing.
  
Would you talk about the ‘short shorts’ or micro-fiction collection on which you are working?
 
Ooh, yes.  I’m working on a collection of short shorts (short fiction of less than 1,500 words, but mostly less than 300 words).

When I say working on a collection, I mean I’m busy writing short shorts hoping that at some point later this year they might be gathered into a collection that is loosely concerned with loneliness.  It is a theme that has started emerging in my writing.  Actually, perhaps it has been in my writing for a long time.  It’s definitely present in Winter Hands.
  
My short shorts tend to be glimpses into the lives of different characters.  Many of these characters could be described as lonely, or disconnected, or experiencing moments in which they are utterly alone (in an existential sense) – and I don’t mean this is a dark, painful, isolated way.  I think being lonely can also be humorous or comforting for instance.
  
What do you enjoy and find challenging about working within different genres?
 
That’s an interesting question.  I write short fiction (in the widely understood meaning of the term), and I write free verse that most people would agree is poetry.  But mainly I inhabit the space in between these two genres by writing what has been described as prose poetry, flash fiction, micro-fiction, sudden fiction, versets, vignettes, short shorts.
  
I think people mistakenly use of these terms interchangeably.  I see flash fiction as being quite different to prose poetry.  (I use the term short shorts for both.)
  
I write some pieces that are condensed narrative fictions that follow (or subvert) generally accepted rules about storytelling (flash fiction, micro-fiction).  I also write prose poems, which seem to confuse people even though there is a long tradition of poets writing prose poems.
  
There are some wonderful definitions of prose poetry, which I have started collecting on my blog.  Have I answered your question?  Hmm, not really.  I guess my answer is that I love working between genres rather than within them.
  
Which writers have inspired you?
 
Many writers have inspired me.  Ones that immediately spring to mind are:  Raymond Carver, Charles Simic, Ian McEwan, Michael Ondaatjie, Pascale Petit, Anne Donovan, Joyce Carol Oates, Lorrie Moore, Anais Nin, Angela Carter and Tove Jansson.
  
Would you name a few of your favourite books?  Why are they important to you?
  

I have a dog-eared copy of Wuthering Heights, which is falling to pieces.  I first read it as a teenager.  It’s important to me because it was one of the first books I read that explores the taboos of human passion and emotion, and it is set in a very familiar landscape.
  
I have Pablo Neruda’s The Collected Odes.  I visit these poems often as I love the sense of wonder and awe he creates around ordinary objects such as socks, a tomato, or a bicycle.
  
I have a copy of L’Etranger by Albert Camus with all my A-Level notes in it.  It was the first book I read in French, and it captures an existential loneliness similar to that which I’m now exploring in my own writing.
  
What are you reading at the moment?
 
I’m reading a gorgeous collection of very short fiction called East of Here, Close to Water by an Australian writer called Josephine Rowe.  I mostly read short fiction.  It is one of my loves.

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

  
“We enter the mythical when we enter the realm of risk, and myth is the enchantment we generate in ourselves at such moments.  More than a belief, it is a magical bond that tightens around us.  It is a spell the soul casts on itself …. In Greece, myth escapes from ritual like a genie from a bottle.  Ritual is tied to gesture, and gestures are limited:  what else can you do once you’ve burned your offerings, poured your libations, bowed, greased yourself, competed in races, eaten, copulated?  But if the stories start to become independent, to develop names and relationships, then one day you realise that they have taken on a life of their own.”
  
– Roberto Calasso, The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony

Burnished wood, paper, glue, ink

“Back in the 1950s in El Salvador, there was only one library in the capital:  la Biblioteca Nacional, an imposing wooden structure that took up an entire downtown block.  When stepping through the huge double doors, you were enveloped by a distinctive smell:  burnished wood, paper, glue, ink – the redolence of stories.  Stories shelved high and low along narrow aisles that creaked when you walked along them.
 
In la Biblioteca Nacional, I’d slip between the stacks for a visit with the characters living between the covers of Las mil y una noches.  The book was thick, gold-edged, and richly illuminated.  I can still see its magnificent illustrations, all protected by vellum as delicate as dragonfly wings.  I had to stand on tiptoe to pull the book off the shelf.  I’d plop down, right in the aisle, although the light there was dim.  Caught in the spell of stories, I would turn the pages slowly.  I never checked the book out.  I believed its proper home was the library.”

– Sandra Benitez, from ‘Fire, Wax, Smoke’

Are fairy tales bad for children?

“Are stories like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and Rapunzel harmful to children? […]  A poll of 3,000 British parents showed that a quarter of mothers today reject some classic fairy tales.”

Read Marjorie Kehe’s blogpost in The Christian Science Monitor by clicking on the above link.

I’d love to hear what you think.