I'd be one of those newcomers then. Yay!
Swansea writer and journalist Susie Wild’s first book won Fiction Book of the Year in the Welsh Icons Awards 2010.
In April my novella Arrivals will be released as an e-book. I’m not sure yet how much of a claim to fame this but my writing will be distributed globally, out there in the e-world, it won’t even be on paper, it’ll be on a screen. Exciting times.
I started writing Arrivals while studying for my MA in Creative Writing at Swansea University between 2006 and 2008.
It unfolds slowly, revealing a mother and daughter in opposite corners of the planet, London and LA, and both experiencing their own personal revelation.
Arrivals started life as my dissertation in longer fiction. Initially it was a struggle to get past the short story length. I am used to stricter word counts and deadlines as a journalist.
Freedom to run off with my ideas scared me and probably scared my friends.
A change of scene fixed the problem for all of us. I flew to LA, which I hated, and then San Francisco, which I loved and had always wanted to visit.
I traded poems for drinks and trailed The Beats – a two-week solo trip in which I explored, took photos and filled notebooks.
Travel has always been a creative catalyst for me, poems strike me when walking in the rain, story ideas come flooding when I set foot in new cities, new countries. Motion and a sense of difference is often all the inspiration I need. Oh, and the odd song lyric.
When I got back to Swansea I simply threaded the sections together and edited, and then edited some more. I had intended the piece to become my first novel.
The week that I handed it in to be marked I also posted a copy to Parthian. Their editor had been encouraging me to submit my stories, after reading a film review I had written for Red Handed magazine.
At the Hay Festival a couple of months later the publisher told me that they wanted to take on the book, but not exactly as I had envisaged it.
They offered me a contract for a short story collection, of which my mother and daughter story (now Arrivals) would be a major part; a novella all the more poignant for being stripped back and contained in a more concise form. I was pleased.
I have always been a big fan of the short story form, but in the UK it is less common for first-time writers to win a publishing contract for one. Luckily for me, Parthian don’t share this policy, and much like American publishers, they believe a short story collection can showcase a new writer’s breadth of style.
It was why I had chosen them as my first-choice publisher, I had already devoured their fantastic award-winning collections by Rachel Trezise and Jo Mazelis.
The collection became The Art of Contraception, released in September of last year. I wanted the stories to link thematically, and they do. They all have a basis in the quirks of human relationships whether familial, sexual or romantic.
They cover unrequited lusts and uncertain encounters, and, as the title suggests, sex and secrets.
They are set in nightclubs and on beaches, in cafes and in institutions. Most are urban.
Some are darkly comic, others are just plain bleak. I am not a nice mother to my characters. I watch them destroy their lives, and yet sometimes I let them piece themselves back together.
The book really was written in snatches. The zig-zagging geography of the collection interests me. I like to map out where I travelled to, where I was living, and where I wrote the stories. Many don’t name their homes but you can feel them.
A friend of mine recently gleefully read the book in the exact San Francisco bars that I wrote Arrivals which makes me happy.
She gained exclusive ‘extra scenes’ In Real Life. Many are loosely set in Swansea. Thailand, Cornwall and Bristol also feature.
The stories I wrote last are my favourites, Pocillovy is in many ways gentler and less quirky than the rest, telling of the search for a missing eggcup. It is one of my Bristol stories written while I spent nine months living there following my MA.
The deranged cravings of a mum-to-be which leads to the accidental poisoning of her co-worker in Pica is a result of my former office-based work life.
The last piece I wrote, Flap, Flap, I sneaked into the collection at the last minute, swapping it for an old story that didn’t seem quite right and that I still can’t finish.
Flap, Flap is an odd little piece full of butterflies and set in a psychiatric ward, somewhere I have never had the pleasure of staying, although mental health and illness has always been a huge interest of mine (Psychology Degree, obsessions with Cracker and books and films like Girl, Interrupted, Fight Club, Donnie Darko, Prozac Nation and Black Swan). Pleasantly the collection won Fiction Book of the Year in the Welsh Icons Awards 2010.
I have now returned to writing My First Novel.
As history has shown, it may well not be a novel when I have finished with it, but it will be a book, digital or otherwise. Now where did I put my passport?
Arrivals is released as an Ebook in April. The Art of Contraception is published by Parthian. Susie will be reading at the Laugharne Weekend (April 14-16)
The latest pink issue of New Welsh Review (No. 91) reviews Fireball by Tyler Keevil and Hereditation by JP Smythe. The reviewers liked both books muchly. They said:
Tyler Keevil/ Fireball: 'As one of only four select books in Parthian's pioneering Bright Young Things series, designed to champion exceptional literary talent, Fireball pushes beyond the bounds of its genre, capturing the dynamics of friendship, seduction, and loss to impressive effect.... [a] breathlessly readable and confident debut.'
JP Smythe/ Hereditation: 'Hereditation comes with a weighty accolade. J.P.Smythe is one of four debut authors whose work make up Parthian's new series Bright Young Things. It's a fair amount of pressure for a first-time novelist but Smythe more than justifies inclusion: Hereditation is an incredible book.'
In other news...
The fifth book in the Bright Young Things series, an anthology of talented young poets, is due out in May 2011. Ten of the Best features the poets M.A.Oliver, S.T.Owen, Anna Lewis, Mab Jones and Alan Kellermann: innovators and artists. Follow them on twitter: @TenoftheBest
Susie has a new blog up on The Raconteur. Her own Ebook Arrivals is out at the end of April 2011.
BYT Live Dates...
Susie Wild is in conversation with Niall Griffiths at the Uplands Literary Salon @Noah's Yard, swansea on Wednesday 13 April. Entry £3, 7pm - close.
Tyler Keevil is the main feature at The Crunch in Swansea @Mozart's, Walter Road on Thursday April 14. Free entry, 8.30pm til late.
Tyler Keevil and Susie Wild are both reading at the Laugharne Weekend on Friday 15 April, time and venue TBC. Susie will also be interviewing a most interesting guest on stage at the festival. Susie is also looking after the festival twitter account, tweeting from @Laugharne2011.
More dates TBC soon.
Thanks for reading and Happy World Book Day!
Susie Q x
Planet Magazine has reviewed the Bright Young Things titles in their brand spanking new edition (no.201). Harri Roberts had this to say about the books...
On Tim Albin's shiny shiny cover designs:
They say never judge a book by its cover but... 'it's hard not to comment on the stylish and attractive manner in which these titles have been packaged.'
On Tyler Keevil's debut novel Fireball:
'Indeed, in all respects, this is a truly accomplished novel: funny, gripping and touching in turns, with a conclusion that continues to resonate long after the book is over. Keevil's skill as an author is everywhere evident: in the quirky dialogue, the lucid prose, and the skilful interweaving of multiple and non-linear narrative strands. This is clearly a novelist to be reckoned with.'
On Susie Wild's debut collection of short stories The Art of Contraception:
'The watchword in this collection is variety, Wild approaching her subject from a diverse range of narrative voices, viewpoints and structures. Underpinning this literary ventriloquism, however, is the distinctive and unifying voice of Wild herself: amusingly quirky and darkly humorous, yet always ready to identify and sympathise with the loneliness and sense of loss that pervades the lives of her characters.'
'The Art Of Contraception is well worth the read. If Parthian can continue to unearth writers of this calibre, then its new imprint will definitely be one to follow.'
On Wil Gritten's debut travelogue Letting Go:
'Letting Go is a diary of a drug- and alcohol-fuelled stomp around Latin America. Written with disarming (sometimes alarming) honesty, this is no ordinary travel book, but an almost confessional account of how close, as the blurb puts it, 'letting go' can come to 'losing it'. Yet despite the often painfully personal nature of its contents, this is a consistently entertaining book that is in no way self-indulgent.'
On J.P.Smythe's debut novel Hereditation:
'Where the novel is strongest is in the historical sections chronicling the story of each generation of the Sloane family - almost invariably a story of Gothic depravity. Told in bold outlines and a starkly terse style, the effect created is akin to that of fairy tale.'
[Incidentally, this is in contradiction to James' review in The Spectator's book blog: 'The episodic flashbacks to Sloane family history are, I’m afraid, very much the weak part of the novel.' Who is right? You tell us.]
So, thanks Planet :) 201 also contains great essays by Gerry Feehily on 'France and the Roma Question' and Jane Aaron on 'Gender and Welsh Writing in English'.
Just as term came to a close it started snowing insanely, all over Wales. The snowfall’s been sporadic and erratic. Drive north for an hour, to Shrewsbury, and there’s barely a dusting. Mid-Wales, from Newtown to Llandrindod, got dumped on. In our town there’s over a foot. This means trouble for people with real jobs and things to do. For me, since I no longer have to commute to Cheltenham to teach (at least until the new year), it’s been a gift.
Each morning I get up and work. During term time I’ve struggled to write anything. My pen has been sitting in a drawer, well-oiled but unused (you can blame Hemingway for that particularly sexual metaphor). But my pen is getting used now. Before noon, at least. I’ve never been one of those writers who can write all day. Carver said he enjoyed writing for thirteen and fourteen hour stretches – completely immersing himself in it. I’m no Carver. I burn out after three or four hours. So at about noon I’ve been clocking off to grab a bite to eat. Then I take my snowboard up the hill behind our house.
To get there, you cross the Llani bypass and hike through a farm. Then you cut across a creek to reach the base of the hill. It’s a big hill. By the time you make it to the top, you’re always gasping. Then there’s this moment when you just sit in the cold, listening to cars on the bypass and appreciating the view of town and the surrounding hills. When you catch your breath, you drop in and carve down. It’s so cold up here right now (usually between –5 and –10) that the snow is soft and perfect and hisses gently beneath the base of your board.
It takes nearly fifteen minutes to hike up, fifteen seconds to ride down. This wears you out quickly so I’ve started building a jump. I found a natural lip halfway down the slope that I’ve used as a base. I’ve reached that age where I can’t quite ride like I used to – not that I was ever much good, compared to my friends – but after a few runs I usually manage to convince myself that I’ve still got the old magic. Mostly I’ve been busting out big old-school tricks. Lame methods and indies and tail grabs, with the occasional (half-assed) spin thrown in when I’m feeling up for it.
I generally stay up there for a few hours. It tires you out in a particular way. The fatigue creeps up on you slowly – a body-weariness that weakens your legs and makes you quiver. The board beneath your feet stops responding in the way you want it to, and you find you can’t stomp your landings anymore. When I fall I’m always reminded that I’m in Wales, not back home – since I usually smear through a big pile of frozen sheep shit. The snow is deep, but not that deep. After a few bails like that, I know it’s time to go in – but not before one more good run. I don’t like ending on a bad one. Like a lot of writers, I’m superstitious about these kind of things.
Back at the house, from four until six I’ll usually read and warm up by the fire. Then me and Nai cook and have a couple beers. Afterwards we might watch a movie or walk down to the pub. As far as days go, I know it’s nothing extraordinary. Write in the mornings, ride in the afternoons. Food, beer, and fun in the evenings. But I’ve realized it’s all I need, really. I’ve also realized it’s probably what Will gets to do every day – that lucky bastard – except with surfing instead of snowboarding. I may just have to move down there to live with him for awhile. One day.
For now, for me, I know reality will come back soon. I can’t live the life of a snowboarding artiste for more than a couple weeks. As Krakauer would say – or said – I’ve got to pay the fucking bills. If nothing else, term two will start and this snow will melt. It never lasts long in Wales. But while it does I’m grateful to have the combination of a pristeen white page and a pristine white slope, both waiting for me to make my mark.
Yes, it is true folks. The lovely people at Welsh Icons decided my debut collection of short stories deserved to be Fiction Book of the Year in their Welsh Icons Awards 2010. Which was a pretty good way to end the year.
You can also read my prose poem 'Postcard to Seattle' in the current issue (3) of Leaf Writers Magazine. It was highly commended in their Travel Writing Competition.
In other news, Bugged is now available as a Kindle Book priced at just £3.39 so you'd be daft not to snap it up. There'll be another top reason to have a Kindle from springtime, when my novella 'Arrivals' will be available to buy as an Ebook, a few months later than originally planned, but worth the wait I reckon :) Watch this space for a party announcement!
I hope you've had a lovely festive season. I have read a huge pile of books and written a new short story. This year I'm hoping to get a one woman touring spoken word show together and some fun poetry releases. Talking of poetry, I have a poem in the edible poetry journal Poetry Digest. It will feature on free cakes at the launch in London this Sunday 16 January. For you none FB types this takes place at The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX between 4 and 6pm. Come along and eat some lovely poems nom nom nom.
I am also teaching a poetry workshop for Academi next month. Love Poetry for the 21st Century with Susie Wild takes place at Academi's Glyn Jones Centre in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday 8 Feb between 7 and 9pm. The workshop is free but you need to email Academi to be on the list: firstname.lastname@example.org
I think that is all I have to tell you today... apart from Happy New Year!
Susie Q x