sally curtis

Meeting Sally Curtis

I’d forgotten how much fun it is to see how creative writers are when it comes to answering the questions I send them for these interviews. I’m looking forward to doing many, many more. This month Sally Curtis who is reading the Flash Fiction category this year shared some of her personal thoughts and inspiration with us, thanks Sally.

What is one thing that no-one would usually know about you?

At heart, I’m a bit of a punk rocker. I love the punk-influenced music of the late seventies/early eighties, the clothes, the hair, the make-up. I own six pairs of (faux) Doc Martens. I always longed to be a punk but was a bit too young and, besides, my dad wouldn’t let me so instead I had to settle for being a new-mod, Rude girl, new romantic and all the alternatives of the eighties instead following the likes of Adam Ant, Boomtown Rats, The Jam. I go to lots of concerts and recently went to good old Skeggy for an alternative rock weekend which features some of the greats. As a 59-year-old primary school teacher, people are always rather surprised!

Do you have any hints or tips for aspiring writers?

Keep writing. Not writing is the only real way to ‘fail’.

I have a framed print of a quote by Ernest Hemmingway next to where I work. It says, ‘Write Drunk, Edit Sober’. Now, I’m not encouraging people to drink but I think it sums up the fact that the first draft is just that – a draft. I believe the first thing you do when you have a seed of an idea is just write. Write whatever comes to you. It doesn’t matter whether it makes sense, whether it’s cohesive, what the language is like, whether there are continuity issues. Just write. Get the story down. Get two stories down if you find it going in different directions. Don’t go back and make each paragraph, sentence, word perfect the first time. Just get a beginning, middle and end. Then edit, edit, edit. Change the beginning or the middle or the end or the characters or the names or the theme if you need to. It’s the rewriting that makes the writing. My first drafts are generally a mess but somewhere in that mess is the story. And yes, I do find a little tipple helpful at times.

Are you jealous of other writers?

Definitely not. I often wish I had written something someone else has written but jealousy won’t make you a better writer. Jealousy won’t get you published. The best thing to do is to learn from other writers. Although I have read articles on writing flash and taken a few courses, it’s through reading so much flash that I have developed mine. Yes, I wish I had started earlier like other authors. Yes, I wish I had come up with the ideas of other writers. But I think writers need to stick together and celebrate each other’s successes.

What is the book that you wished you had written?

So many. The modern classics are favourites: The Great Gatsby, Revolutionary Road, Catch 22, Fahrenheit 451, Love in a Cold Climate, Nineteen-Eighty-Four. I love the feel of these – the innocence of the time, the language, the cultural expectations. I feel these books stand the test of time and many actually foreshadowed where we are now.

What is your favourite TV moment of all time?

I love Blackadder. I think the whole series is fantastic. Funny, clever, insightful. The actors are brilliant, the writing is excellent. However, out of all the episodes it’s the final scene in Blackadder Goes Forth where, after all the jokes, the satire, the irony, the buffoonery, the characters all go over the top. By this time, I felt like I knew all the characters personally, so when they hear the whistle and see them run towards the guns, it really tugs at my heartstrings. Then the way they all fade and are replaced by poppies just gets me every time. Oh, and Baldrick’s war poem: Boom Boom Boom. Boom Boom Boom. Boom Boom Boom.

Are there any habits you wish you didn’t have?

I think I must work on some kind of weird rota that means for a week I am full of ideas – flash, stories, plays, this genre, that genre, a literary piece, a good flash idea – and then a week where I totally focus on one of these to the point of obsession and then the next week I’m flitting from one idea to another and can’t settle on anything so end up doing a paragraph here, a redraft there, a few sentences for this one until I end up with half a dozen deadlines staring me in the face and then have to choose what to actually finish and make competition ready. I wish I could write one (or maybe two) pieces at a time and leave the rest. Oh, and that includes the novel that keeps getting pushed back.

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