Eley Williams, one of the judges on our "light" panel, has happily answered some of our questions about her writing, her creative writing tips and her favourite book.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a writer and occasional lecturer based in London with two recent publications: a poetry pamphlet Frit (Sad Press, 2017) and a collection Attrib. and other stories (Influx Press, 2017). The latter is currently shortlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Prize, and longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. I am also writer-in-residence at the University of Greenwich.
Your writing is known for its eloquent and unique subversion of language (even though you make the point that words don’t necessarily make thoughts communicable) - is that intended as you write?
There’s a quotation by Italo Calvino that has been translated in this way: “The struggle of literature is in fact a struggle to escape from the confines of language; it stretches out from the utmost limits of what can be said; what stirs literature is the call and attraction of what is not in the dictionary” (from The Literature Machine, published in the UK in 1986). I suppose the writing that I most enjoy tends to find a playfulness within and between this notion of literature’s struggle and stirring. Language is unsettling in its flexibility and its rigidities – when one is unsettled, one is alert and wide-eyed. I think writing that contains ambiguities is often the most interesting, and that ambiguity can exist both in terms of characterisation, plot and on a sentence level.
What will you be looking for in the shortlisted entries?
I’m really looking forward to reading these new and fresh stories. A writer that is willing to untangle or repurpose clichés, rather than use them as a shorthand for original expression, is something that always excites me.
Do you have any advice for students wanting to develop their creative writing? How do you go about it yourself?
Save every draft! Although there’ll invariably be an image or a line nestling in a piece that might seem a little clunky or wince-inducing, and might not deserve a place in your current project: copy and paste it into another document. It might be the perfect fit elsewhere or in a future piece.
Also, just save everything. Save save save. Laptops burst into flames ALL THE TIME.
Finally, do you have a favourite book you would like to share with our readers?
There is an extraordinary recent collection of short stories by David Hayden titled Darker with the Lights on (Little Island Press, 2017). Startling, precise, marauding and rich prose that secures a place on my bedside table.
Thank you very much to Eley for her time and we look forward to hearing the results!