Blog tour: The Writing Process

My friend and frequent writing collaborator Emma Claire Sweeney asked me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour, for which all the writers involved are asked to answer four questions about their work. You can read Emma Claire’s answers, and follow the tour back, here.

1. What am I working on?

These past few months have been all about juggling. I have been working on an overhaul of my first novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing, a longish short story ‘The Happiest of Homes’ due to be published later this year, a number of commissioned feature articles, the most recent being this one for the Independent on Sunday co-written with Emma Claire, and also our joint literary website Something Rhymed.

 2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I’ll limit myself to talking about just a couple of things, the novel and the website.

A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing is set in the Japanese city of Ōsaka. It’s the story of an intense friendship between a young English teacher and a Western nightclub hostess, and what happens when the hostess disappears. It’s a book about lost things – a vanished jade necklace, the protagonist’s mother who’s deserted her, and a missing best friend. I’ve also woven traditional Japanese folktales, family stories and national history into this literary thriller.

Osaka at sunset, on my last visit there a few years ago.
Osaka at sunset, on my last visit there a few years ago.

Friendship, an important theme of A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing, is the main focus of my website Something Rhymed. In this case, Emma Claire and I have been looking at the literary friendships of some of the world’s most famous writers. We’d noticed that, although information about the likes of Wordsworth and Coleridge, or Fitzgerald and Hemingway can easily be found on-line, the literary pals of, say, Jane Austen, George Eliot or Virginia Woolf tend to be a bit more hidden. Something Rhymed attempts to redress this balance, and asks why these important relationships so often seem to have been written out of history.

Emma Claire and me
Emma Claire and me

3. Why do I write what I do?

My novel was influenced by my years living and working in Japan when I was in my early twenties, and also my own cultural background. I’m half-English, half-Japanese and I was brought up on my mother’s stories of her life in Japan many years ago. I have often found myself wanting to write about these things in my fiction.

With Something Rhymed, Emma Claire and I just felt that there was something missing from the record where female literary friendships were concerned. We’ve long relied on each other as writing allies – celebrating successes together and providing much-needed support when the going gets tough – so were convinced that, if we looked hard enough we’d discover other writerly relationships comparable to ours. With the help of Something Rhymed readers, we’ve made many new discoveries this year.

4. How does my writing process work?

At the moment, I write every morning in the week and sometimes at weekends too. In the afternoons, I do other things: teaching (creative writing), cleaning, marking students’ work, errands, admin, lesson prep. There’s always lots to do, but I try to keep my writing time sacred. I make a note of what I want to accomplish each day in my diary and attempt to stick to it. This keeps me mostly on track.

 

Next week I’m passing the blog tour to writer and freelance Arts Project Manager, Irenosen Okojie. She has worked with the RSC, the Southbank Centre, and programmed for Duckie for their series of interactive nights. She was a selected writer for the Flight project run by Spread the Word and for the 30 Nigeria House Project by Theatre Royal Stratford East. Her work has been featured in the Observer and the Guardian, and her short stories have been published internationally..Irenosen is penning her first novel and a collection of short stories. She is 2014 Prize Advocate for the SI Leeds Literary Prize, currently obsessed with her family beagle Gogo and addicted to Viennese whirls.

Tangled Roots anthology out now!

The Tangled Roots anthology is now available to buy here.

Tangled Roots cover

The book features a total of fifteen true stories of mixed and multi-racial families from Yorkshire and the North of England, including my short memoir ‘The Memory Album’.

It has been a privilege to be involved with this Arts Council-funded project devised by Katy Massey, and I’ve really enjoyed reading the often unexpected and deeply moving tales that make up this collection.

Tangled Roots book launch

And some non-Something Rhymed news too…

Book launch invitation:

Tangled Roots: true-life tales of mixed and multi-racial families in Yorkshire

You are invited to the launch of the TANGLED ROOTS anthology of true stories by mixed raced people and their families. For launch night only, the book will be available to buy at £8 – 20% off the cover price.

Date: Wednesday 5 March 2014

Drinks reception: 6pm – FREE

Performance by Tangled Roots writers: 7pm – FREE with a copy of the book, £4 without

Venue: The Café Bar, Seven Arts, Harrogate Road, LS7 3PD

Please join us for a drink, to buy the book, and to hear some of the great stories unearthed by the project.

Book Oxygen and Yorkshire Post feature articles

Keeping with my New Year’s resolution to not to leave it ages between posts on this blog, I thought this would be a good opportunity to let you know about the progress of two projects I’ve been involved with recently.

Emily's letter seal

Something Rhymed

This is the new website I began at the start of the year with Emma Claire Sweeney, which profiles the literary friendships of well-known authors. Throughout 2014, we will be looking at a different pair of female writer pals every month and challenging ourselves to complete an activity based on a prominent feature of that particular friendship.

In January, we’ve been focusing on Katherine Mansfield and Virginia Woolf, and the activity Emma Claire and I have been doing is letter writing, which we’ve talked about in more detail in our weekly updates.

We were also lucky to be able to feature a guest post by writer friends Jill Dawson and Kathryn Heyman, regular correspondents by letter themselves. You can read more about our plans for Something Rhymed this year, in this feature article for the literary website Book Oxygen.

Tangled Roots

Katy Massey’s project, showcasing the experiences of mixed-race families from Yorkshire continues to go from strength to strength. You can read the latest news and stories here.

I was pleased to see Nick Ahad’s article about Tangled Roots in Saturday’s edition of the Yorkshire Post magazine. As one of the featured writers, I’m of course looking forward to the book of the project, which should be launched in March.

Two more bits of news: long-listed for Mslexia Novel Competition and publication of my Tangled Roots memoir

An email arrived in my inbox on Tuesday afternoon bearing the wonderful news that my first novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing is on the long-list for the Mslexia Novel Competition.

Then on Friday I received another very welcome message, this time from the writer Katy Massey, to let me know that my memoir about being brought up in a mixed English and Japanese household in York has been published on her Tangled Roots website. The same piece should appear in book form some time in early 2014.

I’ve blogged about Tangled Roots before here. One of the things that I’ve most enjoyed about this project has been meeting the other featured writers, and having the chance to read their stories and poems about their own experiences of a being part of multiracial families in Yorkshire. I strongly recommend that you take a look at their work.

A good week: third place in Yeovil Literary Prize and launch of the Tangled Roots project

Having had to keep it quiet until now, it’s good to be able to start letting people know that my novel A Tiny Speck of Black and then Nothing has taken third place in the Yeovil Literary Prize, judged by Tracy Chevalier.

I’ve long been an admirer of Chevalier’s prose and her writerly eye for detail, and so her kind comments about the book make the experience extra special. You can read her words about all the novel prize winners, and find out more about the prize, here.

Another pleasure this week was being able to attend the launch night of Tangled Roots, a project documenting the experiences of multi-racial families from Yorkshire. I’ve blogged about it before here. There are currently seven writers involved with the project, set up by Katy Massey, and photos of six of us will be displayed at Seven in Leeds until the middle of October.

If you can’t make it to the exhibition, you can view the images, taken by photographer Anthony Farrimond, on the Tangled Roots website. There’s lots more information about the project there too.

Tangled Roots project launch

Tangled Roots flyer

I’m really happy that Katy Massey has asked me to play a part in her Arts Council-funded project, Tangled Roots – writing mixed-race Yorkshire. I first met Katy through last year’s SI Leeds Literary Prize. Jane Steele (another SI Leeds competitor, who ended up coming joint-third with me) will also be involved in Tangled Roots, which will include an anthology of work, to be published in early 2014.

Other contributing writers are Michelle Scally Clarke, Adam Lowe, Sai Murray and Seni Seneviratne. It was good to meet up with them and share stories about our families when we gathered to have our pictures taken by Anthony Farrimond.

I’m looking forward to viewing the results at the launch. If you live in or near Leeds, and are free on 19th, it would be great to see you there too.