New Voices: Postcards
Billy Kahora, Jessica Soffer, Evie Wyld
Our New Voices series, which publishes fiction by emerging authors exclusively on the magazine’s website, continues with a new story this week. We also caught up with some of our other writers from the series: What did being a Granta new voice do for their careers? What are they working on now? Any advice for writers starting out?
It definitely garnered some international attention. I got into the Iowa International Writing Program partially on the strength of this – it has also helped with invitations to panels and talks while I’ve been in the U.S.
I am working on a creative non-fiction novella on Juba, Sudan and a novel based in Kenya.
To borrow from an Australian writer I met recently – the word writer is not a noun but really oriented around a verb. Forget everything else that comes with the idea of being a writer and just write. And write, and write. Structure your life around your writing, not writing around your life, if it is something you take seriously. And when you are not writing, read as much as you can …
Read Billy Kahora’s story, The Gorilla’s Apprentice.
In a word: everything. The publication plucked me from the muddy and claustrophobic cave of scribbling where I’d lived for years and put me on some kind of map where I could begin to engage with others about my work. Until then, the engagement had been strictly critical (as in workshop, for example) but the publication etched my words – regardless of how flawed they may have been – into something more finite, more real, which offered me a little room to imagine that I might move people, as good writing has moved me my whole life. Until the work is ‘out there’, it’s hard to believe that’s possible. Though, of course, that’s the reason many writers write, and keep writing. On a more practical level, I began talking to editors and agents, each crucial in navigating me through the next stages.
I’ve just had the very wonderful news that my novel, Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots, will be published in 2013. I’ve been reeling – and working on some food writing, particularly on beloved authors and their quirky eating habits. Iraqi-Jewish and French cuisines are at the heart of Apricots and I’ve fallen in love with the language of food. For now, I can’t imagine writing about much else.
My advice is to keep the writing close to your chest for as long as you can. It’s so easy to corrupt things when you show them to the light too soon. Also, find readers you trust and don’t write under a rock forever. It’s possible to do all those things. I haven’t figured it out yet, but there are people who have and I tip my hat to them.
Read ‘Beginning, End’ by Jessica Soffer now.
Just being associated with Granta is enough to get people to prick their ears up, and having an interview, a short story and a biography as a single package on the website was really very useful. You’re able to impart a whole lot of information about yourself without feeling like you’re going on and on and being intrusive. I still get people directed from New Voices contacting me on my website.
I’m working on two things. I’m three quarters of the way through a second novel which is partly set in Australia and partly in the UK. It’s got sheep and sharks in it, but that’s all I can say at the moment, because all else may change. The other thing is a graphic memoir with illustrator Joseph Sumner, which is proving to be a long process but very well worth it. Lots of sharks in that one too.
Read your whole book out loud to yourself. If you trip up over words there’s something wrong with the sentence. That sounds like water divining but it works!
Evie Wyld contributed to our sex issue – read her memoir essay ‘Woman’s Body: An Owner’s Manual’ here. Her New Voices story was an advance extract from her novel After the Fire, A Still, Small Voice, which went on to win the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize.