Booker-finalist Author talks about the #Writing Life : Romesh Gunesekera

ROmesh Gunesekara ReefHere on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my absolute pleasure today to welcome Romesh Gunesekera: a booker-finalist author with an illustrious writing career spanning decades, and a very kind, insightful teacher.

I’ll be giving away a signed copy of Romesh Gunesekera’s Monkfish Moon, (a slim, but as remarkable a book as I’ve ever read) collection of short stories. I’m re-reading it after a span of years, and find the prose almost hypnotic in its efficacy and beauty.

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1. At what age did you start writing fiction? What prompted you?

As a child, I enjoyed escaping into books. The idea that someone wrote them was not important to me. Even when I became aware of authors behind books, I didn’t appreciate that they were among the living. I was probably about fourteen when I realized that some people spent their time writing stories and turning them into books and that these people were writers. As soon as I discovered that, I wanted to be one.


2. What are your preoccupations as a writer? Do you have an ideal reader in mind as you write?


When I first started writing, it was mostly for myself and a few close friends. I wanted to put what I felt into words and communicate through a written language. When publishing became a goal, I was still writing mainly for someone like me: a reader seeking both distraction and meaning from a page.

Romesh Gunesekara3. For someone new to your work, which of your works should they read first?


I don’t think it matters. Whatever they find first, or appeals most. Hopefully it will be love at first sight. If not, find another. I try to write books that can be approached from different angles, but here is a simplified guide, if you need one.
If you like short stories, start with Monkfish Moon.
If you want a short novel, try Reef.
If historical fiction is your thing, then The Prisoner of Paradise might be the one.
For those keen on speculative fiction, and dystopia: Heaven’s Edge.
Cricket fans, and maybe photographers, should give The Match a go.
Family drama: The Sandglass.
For a glimpse of post-war Sri Lanka try the most recent: Noontide Toll.

What’s the Best Writing Tip you’ve Given or Received? #IWSG #WWWBlogs

Insecure Writer Writing TipThanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for organizing and hosting the Insecure Writers Support Group every month for the past few years! Go to this site to meet the other participants: each insecure writer, trying to feel secure, from across the blogiverse!


As a writer, one of the questions I’m asked at meetups is “what is your best writing tip?”

Now, I’ve writing for a little while, and have a smattering of writing credits, but the more I work on my writing, the less qualified I feel to dole out a writing tip or two.

So, as is usual practice on this blog, I’ll throw the question to you:

What is the best creative writing tip you’ve ever given or received?

I’ve collected all the links on my blog that share insightful writing tips on this page : Advice from Authors, Editors, Literary Agents. Many authors, writing tutors, editors and literary agents have shared insights into their own writing processes, and given out a concrete writing tip or two that much of this blog’s audience has found useful over the years. Collating it all took time: I hope it is worth the effort. Check it out.

And then, in the comments, share your ‘best writing tip.’

Not a writer? Share your ‘life tip.’ Both tend to work together, I find: what’s good for life is often good for writing.

Who are your heroes in writing (authors), in fiction (protagonists), and in life (people you admire)? Why?

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What do you plan this New Year? #HappyNewYear

New Year

One of the most moving poets alive today, Mary Oliver, is 40 years older than me. In her words I find my voice this New Year’s Eve.

This is an excerpt from In Blackwater Woods: “To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

May 2017 be the new year, when we learn to love, to love what is mortal with complete recognition of its inherent nature, and to let go when the time comes. May it bring us joy in the moment, peace in our hearts, and unbridled love for all our fellow beings.

For me, my goal is to try and live without complaining or judging. Each year, I make outward goals, but this new year, I begin my inner journey in earnest. So if you ever hear me rant or whine or judge, please step right up and stop me in my tracks with a reminder.

How are you celebrating the New Year? What’s the one change you’d like to see in your life in 2017? Is it internal or external? What did you love about 2016, and wish to continue on into the New Year?

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What’s your #Christmas Miracle?

I don’t come from a region or family that celebrates Christmas. But we celebrate the Christmas spirit in many ways, on many occasions during the year: peace, harmony, blessings, love, giving.

This Christmas, I’m working on my novel, trying to finish up what I started during Nanowrimo, take the 50k words to their conclusion. A first draft, telling myself the story. I’ll spend my days with family, my sister-in-law who’s visiting, and try and do what I can to relax while I nourish the novel! It’s been a hard year on many fronts, but it has also been a year of personal blessings. I found my agent this year, I finished the nth draft of my first novel, my short stories got published in various places. I’m grateful.

My miracle is that I’ve stayed upright despite the odds, the often punishing hours. That I’m still friends with all of you, and this blog is alive despite the many challenges of keeping it updated. That I’ve been associated with Project Why, an organization I wrote about during April. Anouradha Bakshi, the founder of Project Why, has received her own miracle: it is sure to bring you a smile: her 8-yr old grandson donating his Christmas gift, a princely 20 Pounds, to his friends at Project Why.

Christmas

I hope each one of you, whether you celebrate the festival, or just its spirit, receive your miracles. The world, our planet, and all of us, needs miracles: we can try to be these miracles for each other. In love, in kindness, in compassion. May you all have blessed holidays, and a wonderful beginning of the year.

How are you celebrating Christmas? What’s your Christmas miracle? If you don’t celebrate Christmas, what are your holiday plans? What are you planning for the new year?

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Want some Flash Fiction Writing Tips from an expert? #writetip

Here on Daily (w)rite, as part of the guest post series, it is my pleasure today to welcome Mary-Jane Holmes, who offers a smorgasbord of brilliant flash fiction writing tips. If you love reading or writing short fiction, check out her insights in the following interview.

1. What got you started with writing flash fiction?

I came across Yasunari Kawabata’s Palm-of-the-Hand Stories and was hooked. From there, I sought out other flash fiction writers. Many celebrated authors have experimented with short shorts, including Washington Irving, Strindberg, Hemmingway, Carver, Grace Paley… I was impressed with how so little could deliver so much.

2. In your writing universe, what makes a successful piece of flash fiction?

Sam Ruddick, quoted in The Field Guide to Flash Fiction describes this in a nutshell: ‘At their best, these stories will make you pause, tilt your head and say ‘oh’, providing a tiny revelation, a new way of seeing, or a new way of saying something you have seen and been unable to articulate”

3. Other than length, is there a difference between a piece of flash fiction and a short story?

I love what Luisa Valenzuela’s says about the difference between flash and longer genres:
‘I compare the novel to a mammal, be it wild as a tiger or tame as a cow; the short story to a bird or a fish; the micro story to an insect (iridescent in the best cases).

4. Could you name five works of flash fiction you think all writers should read?


Gosh, that’s hard, I want to cheat and list five anthologies however five of my favourites would be:

a. The Dinosaur- Augusto Monterroso b. Yuriko- Yasunari Kawabata  c. Weekend- Amy Hempel d. The Light Eater- Kirsty Logan e. That Colour- Jon McGregor

5. You’ve won prestigious awards for your stories. What pointers would you give a writer submitting to contests?

People judging competitions are reading a lot of work in a relatively short period of time so make sure that the situation and setting are a little out of the ordinary, something they won’t have come across before with any luck which will make them sit up and focus. The first line is crucial – it has to do so much, hook the reader, present conflict and seed the outcome. A compelling title is also important; something that adds to the story and isn’t just a summary.

6. Do you agree with the line of thought that flash fiction is easier to read, given our fast lifestyles? Would you say a collection of flash fiction is easier to read than a novel?

Flash is great for our ‘on the go’ lifestyles but good flash fiction is not for the lazy or the inattentive; like poetry, it demands a strong collaborative bond between reader and text to unpack the story from its condensed kernel. Whether it is easier to read a collection of flash fiction than a novel, I am not sure but I think it definitely offers a different experience – the novel is about investing in characters setting out on a long journey, whereas flash zooms in on the intensity of a moment or an emotion.

7. You teach the Flash Fiction Writing Course with Fish Publishing. Could you tell us more about it?

I designed the Flash Fiction course following demand from writers who wanted to explore the genre further but couldn’t find much guidance either online or through writing groups. At the time it was difficult to find workshops exploring Flash and few creative writing institutions offered anything that focused solely on it. It caused a flurry of excitement when it was launched in 2009 and since then has continued to be a very popular program.

8. Which of your stories would you recommend to a reader who has never read your work?

Settlement’ which won the Dromineer Prize in 2014 can be found here.
For something a little bit more experimental go to this link.

Flash fiction writing tips

9. I loved your piece Trifle, which was published in the Tishman review and was subsequently selected for the Best Small Fictions 2016. Could you tell us more about how you came to write it?

My brother works for Unicef on the program to eradicate polio from our planet and works a great deal in the Middle East. The prompt for the piece came from the presents he brought back for the family one Christmas and the brave work he does out there.

10. What tips would you give to those starting out on flash fiction writing

• Read as much of it as possible to get an idea of its range and flexibility.
• Zoom in on a single event, image or object, nothing too big.
• Keep it simple: no more than one or two characters and a simple plot.
• Begin in the middle of the action as close to the story’s epicenter as you possibly can.
• Allow the reader to build the story with you as you don’t have much space; purposeful ambiguity and the power of suggestion are useful tools.
• Be a ruthless editor: adjectives and adverbs should be the first to go.

Flash fiction writing tipsMary-Jane Holmes is chief editor of Fish Publishing Ireland where she teaches the longest running online course dedicated solely to Flash fiction. She is also consulting editor at The Well Review, a new international poetry journal.
Her work has been anthologized and published in a variety places including The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Prole, JMWW, The Tishman Review, Firewords, The Lonely Crowd and the Incubator. In 2014 she won the Dromineer Flash Fiction Prize and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2014 and 2016.  Mary-Jane is currently studying creative writing at post graduate level at Kellogg College, Oxford.


Are you a flash fiction writer? Have questions for Mary-Jane? Do you agree with her flash fiction writing tips? Finished a flash piece or published it? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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