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Tina Pisco, LISP 2023 Short Story Finalist, Madame Marieke

LISP 2023 Short Story Finalist Madame Marieke by Tina Pisco

- Can you please tell us about you and your daily life?

I’m privileged that my time is mostly my own these days. After trying to fit writing in while raising four daughters, my life feels like a permanent writing retreat. Not that I get more writing done, but it is a lot easier. I also have no one to blame but myself when I don’t write.


- When and how did you get into writing?

I wrote stories as a child. I became a journalist after college as it was a way to write and get paid for it. I worked for a decade in news, features, and television in Brussels. When I moved to Ireland, I was determined to give writing a go. Thirty years later it has worked out pretty well with six books published (novels, short stories, poetry, non-fiction), and a number of awards. Most recently I was the first Writer-in-Residence for Cork city Libraries and was awarded the Frank O’Connor Fellowship.


- How often do you write? Do you have a writing routine? And what inspires you to write?

I’m terrible at keeping to a routine. It’s all or nothing. When I’m in the middle of a book, I’m totally immersed. I could write every waking hour. Then when the book is finished and is doing the rounds, I’m paralysed and don’t write for months. I’d love to strike a happy medium one day…


- How does it feel to have your work recognised?

It’s the best. Writing is such a lonely business. It’s easy to get discouraged. Getting recognition from a journal, or award, or editor is like a boost of oxygen. Being awarded the Frank O’Connor Fellowship was incredible. Financially, getting a residency or fellowship means being secure while you write.


- What's the best and most challenging thing about writing a Story? 

The best is when the words are flowing so fast that the first draft writes itself. The most challenging is getting stuck, often at the ending. I also love it when a story takes an unanticipated twist that makes it better and hate it when an idea that seemed really promising just peters out and you realise it’s going nowhere.


-  How did you develop the idea for your LISP-selected story? Is there a story behind your story? And, how long have you been working on it?

I’ve been following the immigration crisis since 2016. In 2018 I worked in a refugee camp in Northern Greece for two months and have volunteered on a local level with asylum seekers. In 2019 I spent a night with a volunteer group in Brussels, who house over 1000 refugees a night. It’s called the Citizen’s platform and has 40,000 volunteers. They operate near the Gare du Nord station, which used to be a big red-light district, before the area was redeveloped. There are still a few side streets doing business. I was also inspired by a documentary on twin sisters who were still working as prostitutes in Amsterdam in their sixties. It was also inspired by the Jacques Brel song Marieke, which I quote in the story.


- Can you please give us a few tips about writing a Story?

I teach creative writing, and the hardest thing for students is to step away from the first draft, and imagine the story differently, whether it’s a different POV, or verb tense, or a change in the ending. To look at the first draft like a work-in-progress that can still fundamentally change is hard.


- What's the best thing and the most challenging thing about competitions? 

The best thing is having your work enjoyed by others. It is a terrific feeling to get a congratulations email. Not getting an acknowledgement of receipt for a submission really annoys me, though I do understand that many competitions and journals are very short staffed.


- Lastly, do you recommend the writers submit to LISP?

Absolutely. I had not heard of it before entering. I am delighted to be a finalist, particularly with this story. LISP has also been very supportive, and I’ve enjoyed the back and forth. Can’t wait to see the anthology.



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