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Interview with Marianne Kavanagh – one of our Flash Fiction Competition judges

Dulwich Festival asked each of our Flash Fiction Competition judges some questions about themselves, their work and short story writing. We are delighted to present the first of these replies from Marianne Kavanagh.

How did you become a writer?
By being a reader. The more you read, the more you understand how stories work.

What inspires &/or motivates your writing?
An incident usually – a situation (sometimes based on a real-life event) that pushes people to their limits, emotionally or physically. When I first start thinking it through, it’s as if I’m seeing people in a fog or a mist. But then the figures become clearer and clearer until I can see their faces and hands and how they move. And then the fog disappears, and I can hear their voices, and I start writing.

What are you working on currently?
I’m about to start work on a new novel, which is very daunting. I did a lot of research for it just before my Dad became ill, but then wasn’t able to work on it for quite a few months. So I’m going to be doing the equivalent of lifting lots of rusty old iron out of a deep hole and trying to work out if any of it can be put to good use.

What advice would you give to someone attempting to write short fiction for the first time?
Most writing is rewriting. So don’t expect your first draft to be perfect. Sometimes you’re lucky and a piece of writing just seems to work. But most of the time you have to keep tearing it up and starting again until that amazing moment when you write something that very nearly expresses what you want to say.

Which book(s) or poem(s) would you suggest as being a good read during this time of social distancing?
When everything is strange and uncertain, it’s hard to concentrate. So I’d suggest a bit of re-reading. Go back to a novel you’ve already enjoyed, so you know the plot and the characters, and just relax into the story and the writing and all the brilliant nuances you missed the first time round. Alternatively, try a collection of short stories, like Helen Dunmore’s Ice Cream or Lydia Davis’s Can’t and Won’t.

Marianne Kavanagh is an author and journalist.

The Festival Flash Fiction Competition 2020 was open to entries from adults and children alike, the story could be about anything of your choice. The deadline for entries was 5 to midnight on Friday 15th May 2020. For more details please see the entry instructions.

Photograph credit: Marzena Pogorzaly

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