Wednesday, 27 January 2010

VANESSA GEBBIE & SHORT CIRCUIT ARE HERE TODAY!




Vanessa Gebbie, writer and editor, and author of the short fiction collection Words from a Glass Bubble is here today on her virtual tour for Short Circuit -  A Guide to the Art of the Short Story. Vanessa’s short fiction has won over forty awards, including prizes at Bridport, Fish (twice), Per Contra (USA), the Daily Telegraph and the Willesden Herald. A second collection, Ed’s Wife and Other Creatures, is forthcoming.


Welcome, Vanessa, to my blog with your Salt-published guide to short story writing Short Circuit. Congrats on a really handsome and comprehensive collection of essays – I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading and dipping. There are so many aspects of the short story covered in the book, I thought we’d touch on just a few things.

Firstly, as a writer and reader I am minorly obsessed with names and naming; it’s an aspect of the craft that I really enjoy. What are your own thoughts on character naming? How do you come up with names? Do you enjoy that part of the process?

Brilliant question, Nuala, and thanks for your lovely words. Thank you too for your generous and inspiring chapter – it is really marvelous.
To the question then – I am also obsessed with names, but find that part of the process very hard to pin down. I am one of those strange writers who can’t feel at ease with a character unless I know what their name is. I can write a few pages, and if the name is wrong it will be like writing in glue. But change the name, give them the right one, and the glue thins, becomes blood and ink.
How do I come up with names? That’s a hard one, really. I know what I don’t do, and that’s have a copy of a baby name book in my study like many writers seem to.
Names seem to come from nowhere, and ‘fit’ the character. My lady called Dodie, in Dodie’s Gift – I have scratched my head to see where I got this name from. I don’t know anyone called Dodie. I know a Doodie, who is totally different to my character. The only one I can think of is Dodie Smith! Maybe that name lodged in my head and became something, popping up when I needed a slightly naïve sounding name?




One of my favourite essays in the book is by Paul Magrs; I love the amount of solid advice he packs into his piece while maintaining a very down-to-earth approach. I think his advice might work best for experienced writers – novices may be scared by statements such as: ‘How come it’s only paragraph one and you are already up your own arse?’ (!)
A salient point he makes is, ‘Don’t forget to appeal to all our senses.’ (Using colour, food, sex etc. in stories.) What are your own feelings on the importance of including all things sensual in the short story?

Guardedly, V replies, it is important, obviously, to allow our reader to experience the world you create for them. But. How many pieces have I read where the senses have been a bit shoehorned in, almost as though the writer was ticking them off on their fingers as they wrote.

'The smell of the sea rose through the open window together with the raucous cries of seagulls tussling over some scraps on the pavement outside the café. The coffee this morning tasted so bitter. But it always smelled so good first – it was unfair. But then life was unfair. Hugo picked at a loose thread on his jacket sleeve – the rough tweed, browns and golds if you got close enough to it, felt rough under his fingers, like that old jacket of his father’s that used to small of tobacco and mint – his father always had Polos hidden in the pockets for the ponies…'


Blah blah blah…

I know what you mean!!

Paul Magrs also touches on procrastination when he says, of the musing writer, ‘Do I dare invent??’ And he advises: ‘JUST DO IT!’
I think all writers – even sloggers like Stephen King – must procrastinate at some point. My new baby has cut that luxury out of my life but do you find that you will procrastinate at times? If so, how does it make you feel? If not, tell us about your work ethic.

Oh God, do I procrastinate!? Yes, Nuala, I do. I find every excuse under the sun not to do what I know I ought to. My ethic is to work as much and as often, as I can, and procrastinate in little doses, all the time (!!) whilst working in little doses as well. And then, when I can, I get away from home, to a retreat where I know I WILL work harder than I ever do at home.

Vanessa, it’s been an absolute pleasure to have you here. I love your own stories in Words from a Glass Bubble (Salt, 2008) and I think you have done short story writing, reading and teaching a big service as editor of this new book. Congrats!
Readers, buy Short Circuit here. And the book has its own website here.

16 comments:

Kar said...

Loved the interview. And liked that you hit on ‘appealing to all senses’, it can be all too much sometimes.
It’s a brilliant book, I just love it! and would love if there was something similar done for poetry?!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Hi Kar
Salmon's 'Reading It, Writing It, Publishing It' is a similar enterprise for poetry. It's good.

Kar said...

why thank you kind Nu, I shall check that out today...

Julia Bohanna said...

Great interview..true point about the shoving in of the senses...it's something writers have to be cautious about. The only Dodie I know is Dodie Smith, the writer......how fascinating names are....writers like Joyce certainly played lots of games with them!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Hey Julia,

I love sensual work but, yeah, overload is crappy.

There's also Dodie, of Dodie and Di fame. Or was he 'Dodi'? He was, I think.

BarbaraS said...

I've read Paul magrs before and liked his solid advice. Definitely considering getting this soon! Thanks to both of you for the interview :)

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Great for teaching, B - especially as there are exercises in it.

JAKI MCCARRICK said...

Beckett and Pinter are both brilliant 'namesters' I think. Who will ever forget Vladimir, Estragon, Lucky? Or Goldberg and McCann? The right name captures something of the soul of the character. On procrastination - I like to think of what Graham Linehan says about it: that its necessary, vital - to bring out one's sense of play. Least that's what I tell myself when fiddling about on the net...now, back to that manuscript...great interview ladies.

Liz said...

Enjoyed this! Great insights...thanks!

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Indeedy, Jaki. I just love naming. Like V, the story doesn't feel right until the right name occurs to me.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Liz - thanks for stopping by, as always. Looking forward to going to yours on my own tour soon. N x

Rachel Fenton said...

Lovely chat, ladies...what's ina name indeed...have I mentioned I have read this book and how useful it is?..:)

Thanks for the poetry book info, too, will add to the shelf of "how to"...

Totalfeckineejit said...

Great interview and great idea for a book.

OSLO said...

Great interview. I ordered 'Short Circuit' from Amazon weeks ago and it went missing en route to Oslo, so a second copy is on its way to me now apparently. One way to help sales' figures I suppose, losing books in the post ;) Look forward to reading it :)

Marisa Birns said...

Lovely interview to read first thing in morning as I drink my coffee topped with chocolate shavings.

Well, only two senses there. :)

Really enjoyed the interview. It's odd but I know--and know of--so many people with unusual names that it's not been too hard to find one for stories.

Ah, procrastination. That's what I am doing here right now.

WOMEN RULE WRITER said...

Hi Marisa and thanks for stopping by.
Glad u liked the interview.