Interview with Kathy Chamberlain, The London Independent Story Prize 2nd Quarter Recommended Writer
- Can you please tell us about you? Where do you live and how is your daily life?
Hi! Yes – happily. I live in Swansea, in Wales. I moved here
in late 2011 to study for my MA in Creative Writing, without any plans to stay past that academic year. I then fell in love with the city and my uni and was delighted to begin working on my PhD. Through that I began teaching, and at the moment I’m teaching undergraduate classes in English and Creative Writing at a couple of institutions. So depending on timetabling, a typical work day might find me teaching, or working from home – whether planning/marking, or working on my own writing.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write?
My earliest memories of writing are from primary school. I remember writing a weekend recap every Monday in Year 1. The earliest specific story I recall is my own take on Jack and the Beanstalk in Year 2. We wrote on yellow paper and I went back for more until I’d written at least a dozen pages. I remember being the only one who did that. I wrote for my university newspaper as an undergraduate, but it wasn’t until I started my MA course that I returned to writing fiction. My MA dissertation and my doctoral thesis both consisted of short story collections. I’ve begun putting my work out there and a few of my recent stories have found homes with lovely publishers, which feels wonderful.
I write when I can. I think every writer’s definition of that is different. For me it’s when I don’t have pressing work deadlines I need to focus on. I think I’m happiest when I set a goal of one complete draft of a new piece a week. The rush from creating something out of nothing never goes away.
- How did you feel when you learned that you were longlisted for The London Independent Story Prize? How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It felt amazing! I read the e-mail after parking my car at the end of a long journey. I was instantly rejuvenated. Having my work recognised takes the sting out of every rejection letter – past and future. Knowing that your writing resonated with others – accomplished others – well that’s the whole reason to do it. It’s why I read and it’s why I write.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Flash-Fiction?
The best thing: creating something so short that (hopefully) stands alone and tells a story. Something that can be absorbed in the time it takes to wait for the kettle. The hardest thing, for me, is learning what works in 300 or 500 words. Something that is more than a fleeting impression.
- How did you come up with the idea for your LISP selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And how long have you been working on it?
My story ideas come to me when I am busy with a task and I absolutely cannot write things down. I get an image. A first line. Then I start to go over that in my head. That’s how Sophia appeared. I knew I wanted to work on that story, but I didn’t know how it would develop. That was right before the LISP deadline and I knew I wanted to submit something, so I thought: why not this? I sat down in my garden and got Sophia’s story out.
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 300-word flash-fiction story?
Oh, I can try! Of course, make every word count. There are two things I find helpful to keep in mind. 1) Don’t make it a ‘so what?’ story. Don’t leave your reader asking that at the end. I try to apply this to my longer stories, and I find it useful in flash, too. 2) Believe in yourself. It’s so easy to lack the confidence to write and share your stories. There are enough people who will doubt you. Don’t do their job for them.
- What's the best thing about writing competitions?
Having a deadline to generate new material is always helpful. It’s also great to take the opportunity to try something new. I’d never written a 300 word story before and really enjoyed the challenge of sticking to the word limit – my story was 300 words exactly for a reason! If I’d left more time, I would have reworked it further.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on flash fiction story and LISP?
Yes! The whole experience has been a much-needed boost. Just try it out.