The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day, ‘Make It Happen’, could hardly be more apt for a fiction writer. Make your made-up world happen and keep on happening until you reach an end –pointless, right, especially when the Real World never stops tweeting its problems? This kind of thinking can easily stop you from writing, especially if you happen to be a woman. With my debut collection of very short fiction, How the Light Gets In, to be published by Influx Press in 2016, I thought I’d pen a few words about a few of the women around the world who made it happen for me.
1. No One Belongs Here More Than You
Reading Miranda July‘s short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You at a time in my life when I was 110% sure of the opposite gave me the confidence to rejoice in my own strangeness, both as a writer and as a person. Bonus!
2. Kiffe Kiffe Demain
Knowing that Faiza Guene wrote her critically-acclaimed debut novel Kiffe Kiffe Demain when she was only 17, I approached it, at the elderly age of twenty-something, with a great deal of trepidation and – I’ll admit – jealousy. However, I couldn’t resist the novel’s say-it-as-it-is teenage narrator; she dared me to reach through my fear in describing what I knew.
You may or may not know that Nine Lives by Zodwa Nyoni is a play. I saw it at the West Yorkshire Playhouse last year; I am still yet to recover. Showing Armley through the eyes of an asylum seeker, it did more than any psychogeographical tome to show how engaging deeply with the specifics of place can result in writing so sensitive, it is universal.
4. Brand New Ancients
I wouldn’t normally consider myself an epic poem kind of gal, but Kate Tempest‘s Brand New Ancients changed that. Tempest’s award-winning and original blend of Greek mythology, contemporary rhyme and astute observation portrays the inner lives of two south London families with more oomph than many ‘Important Novels About Contemporary Family Life By Important Male Writers’ and many other novels, for that matter.
5. Lydia-Davis’ Collected Stories
Lydia Davis’ Collected Stories lives by my bed and I suspect it will continue to do so for quite some time. If you are writing short stories and have been made to believe that this is some silly ‘warm up’ for writing a novel, read this. Read it again. And again. And again. Each time you will find another reason to read and write short and very short fiction – I promise.
In other words, be bold, honest, and – cheese alert! Cheese alert! But I’m going to say it anyway – don’t be afraid, in writing as in life, to reach for that strange shadowy thing that might just be your real self! Happy International Women’s Day everyone!