Sunday, 15 May 2011

Litmus and other writing...

I have just sent back the proofs for my short story What Kind of Dog, soon to be published in Litmus, a Comma Press anthology of short stories from modern science.

The book is due out in June, I think. And I have to say, it looks amazing from the sneak preview on Comma's website.


The list of authors and scientists in the book is amazing. I'm a little astounded and very pleased that I will be amongst them. And can't wait to get hold of a copy.

My story is inspired by a flood in Petrograd in 1924, which created a moment of discovery for neuroscientist Ivan Pavlov in his work with dogs. It's a subject that I never imagined writing about or researching, but sometimes life presents these opportunities, and I decided that yes, I was going to attempt a story completely outside my experience and strengths as a writer. For a person who was never good at science (or that interested), and has never been to Russia, can't speak a word of Russian, and has little knowledge about 1924, it was a bit of a challenge. And some people might remember me agonising a little over this story.

Anyway, lots of researching, a trip to Manchester University to talk with a researcher in neuro-science, reading, writing, editing, feedback, re-writing. It is ready for printing, almost in print, and I achieved something that when I was first asked to do, I almost said 'no, sorry, it's not something I could write.'

The lesson in this story is....

So, I am writing a new story. Again, a story that is outside my experience. It is set in another continent, in a country I know only a little about, a country with ongoing civil unrest and war, with horrific levels of sexual violence, and it's about a family with a different language and culture to me. Can I do it? Well, I'm 2000 words in and still going, and we'll see, but perhaps I can manage it, with the right research and hard graft, and feedback and writing and re-writing.

I've always been told to write what I know, but... I'm not sure about this sage advice anymore. Perhaps sometimes writing is about taking a leap into an experience you have never lived through, stretching the bounds of imagination, and feeling your way through the unknown. What do you think?

3 comments:

Megan said...

go for it Annie! No boundaries to your imagination - new places, new characters, ALL good!
m xx

sonia said...

Sounds a brill adventure. rules are there to be broken.

annie clarkson said...

Thanks... yes I agree!