Laura Blake, Semi-Finalist
Laura Blake Short Story Semi-Finalist, LISP 3rd Quarter 2020
Can you please tell us about your daily life?
Like a lot of people, right now my daily life involves working from home (and spending more time in my pyjamas than I care to admit) … I am the managing editor of a publishing firm, and in my spare time I like to read, cook, practice yoga, and write, mainly short and flash fiction, but I am also working on a children’s book. I love to travel (but I’m terrified of the sea) and I’ve been studying Italian for the past four years – luckily, my lessons have been able to continue via zoom during lockdown.
- When did you start writing? How often do you write?
I loved writing as a small child and harboured a faraway dream of becoming an author, but as I got older I kind of fell out of it– by then I was too interested in my friends and going out on my bike. While I was at university I remembered how much I loved writing, but it’s only been in the past two or three years that I’ve felt confident enough to enter competitions and share my work. I’ve had some success in this; in 2019 I was shortlisted in the Floella Benjamin Trophy (as an aside, the fact that Floella Benjamin read and liked my work was a high that I don’t think will ever completely wear off) and longlisted for the Edinburgh Flash Fiction award. This year I was shortlisted in the Leicester Writes Short Story Prize and longlisted in the Retreat West Flash and Reflex Flash competitions.
I haven’t been writing as much during lockdown, as I’ve found it difficult to push the anxiety aside. However, I do try to get something down on paper whenever the inspiration strikes, as I hate to let what could be a good idea get away from me. For the past year or so a lot of my work has been inspired by cultural identity and immigration. I am mixed race (my parents are English and Jamaican), so incidents such as the Windrush Scandal and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement have been hugely influential.
- How does it feel to have your work recognised?
It’s the best feeling! When I enter a competition I can go from feeling confident to deciding I have no chance at all, all within about 30 seconds of hitting ‘send’ on my submission. And there is so much talent out there! Quite often I read winning entries and wish I could write like that. So to have a story recognised – especially by a big institute like LISP, is a wonderful feeling.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing a Short Story?
The best thing is the sense of achievement you feel when you manage to tell a whole story within a limited word count. The hardest thing is knowing when it’s finished.
- 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?
The idea for Jane Eyre is not a Saint popped into my head when I was travelling to work one more. Usually I get ideas just as I am falling asleep and then I have to get up to find a notepad and pen, so it made a nice change!
Jane Eyre has always been one of my favourite books, and I wanted to explore the ‘mad woman in the attic’ trope and how Jane – who, for a 19th century Gothic heroine, is far more complex and independent than the typical Victorian woman – fits into that. The image of Jane locking herself in the attic to rage against the limitations of her social position was a lot of fun to write. I just hope that Charlotte Bronte won’t mind that I took some artistic licence…
I first wrote this story last spring and submitted it to a competition, but I didn’t have any luck with it. I rediscovered it in lockdown and gave it a polish, and here we are!
- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a 1500-word short story?
To be completely honest, I don’t usually write stories of this length – I tend to write longer stories. But one thing I learned during this process is that you can’t be afraid to be ruthless! Working as a professional editor has proven really helpful in that regard.
- What's the best thing and the hardest thing about writing competitions?
The best thing is this! Getting recognition for a piece you’re proud of, especially from the writing community (I have met and interacted with so many wonderful writers on Twitter. It’s a great source of support). The worst thing is the exact opposite: not getting recognition or feedback, and then doubting your abilities as a writer. But something that I’ve learned in the past few years is that just because one judge didn’t like your work doesn’t mean that they all won’t, so it’s important to keep believing in yourself and keep on writing, especially if it brings you joy.
-Lastly, do you recommend the writers to give it a go on LISP?
Absolutely! What I like the most about LISP is the fact it runs multiple competitions throughout the year, so you have lots of opportunities to get creative and share your work – that, and the quick turnaround from deadline to the results announcement. There’s not enough time to get nervous!