The second of my old-fashioned (by web standards) interviews is with Keely O’Shaughnessy and in it, she focuses on what she loves to read for pleasure.
The value of learning what our readers love about books, stories, and poetry is that you can then choose to work your own entry to meet what you now know they like to read. Keely is reading for the Flash Fiction category this year and you can find out who else is joining her in this endeavour on the Meet the Readers page.
If you are a writer or poet, how did you get started?
I’m a writer and editor based in the Cotswolds in the UK and my favourite thing to write is flash fiction. I’ve always been drawn to writing, but I started to write properly when I attended an Arvon Foundation writing retreat in Devon, where I grew up, and that really sparked something in me. From then on, I became more and more obsessed with all things literary, and a few years later I decided to study creative writing at university.
What is your favourite piece of writing? Why did you choose this over everything else?
This is such a hard question and I think the answer likely changes all the time. I don’t have just one favourite, but one of my favourites is a story called “Loss Is Riding the Log Flume at Splash Town in Late Summer.” It has been published online in Cotton Xenomorph, but you can also read it in my flash fiction collection, Baby is a Thing Best Whispered. “Loss Is Riding the Log Flume at Splash Town in Late Summer” was one of those rare stories that seem to tumble out almost fully formed. I love the rhythm and speed of it, and the atmosphere this creates.
Where and when do you do most of your reading?
My husband and I are currently renovating our spare room and we’re hoping to turn it into a guest room/study, and I have already imagined myself sitting in a dark green velvet wing back, feet tucked up, lost it a book. But for now, I read wherever I can, in bed, in a coffee shop, on the train, in the staff room on my lunch break.
What are you reading currently?
I have just finished Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss. It’s a brief but brilliant novel that blends Iron Age archaeology with a coming-of-age narrative. Set in Northumberland, one very hot summer, I was hooked in by the quiet intensity and unusual setting of the book. I would highly recommend it. Especially if you enjoy seemingly gentle fiction with an edge.
Do you have a favourite writing or reading resource to recommend?
Janet Burroway’s Imaginative Writing: The Elements of Craft is my go-to craft book. I was given it as a present by an old boyfriend’s mum years ago before I went away to study and had no idea how important it would become to me. It’s taught me so much about how and when to use specific concrete details in my writing and the importance of including all the senses to make your descriptions vivid. It also has lots of great writing examples and exercises in that push you outside of your comfort zone. It’s difficult to get hold of now, but well worth it if you can find a copy. I still refer to it whenever I’m writing.
What did your best review say about your work?
I don’t know if it’s my best but it’s a favourite. My flash fiction collection Baby is a Thing Best Whispered was reviewed by the Managing Editor of Your Impossible Voice, Keith J. Powell. The final sentence of his write-up is one that will stay with me always.
“Baby is a Thing Best Whispered lands like a lump in the throat. It’s full of heartache and epiphany and very much worth an invitation to your next party.”
Being someone, who doesn’t often get invited to parties, I loved this. Getting a good review of something you’ve written always means so much. Knowing that someone has not only read your work and liked it, but also taken the time and effort to tell you about it is so incredible.
Have you ever written naked?
I haven’t, but I’m going on holiday to Greece this summer, so never say never.
Are you jealous of other writers?
All the time. When I’m editing for other authors, this is actually one of the main ways I gauge the success of a piece. If I’m reading and start feeling jealous, then I know it’s good. It’s when you read a line and you’re left thinking how on earth did they do that, or my god, I wish I’d written this!