I like the sound of March. It has one syllable and means movement. Moving forward in fact. A proactive month. The word February is so miserable in the mouth.
On March 1st I feel Welsh. I can smell the rain, feel the slide of my shoes on the wet leaves as I climb up The Devil's Pulpit. There I can look out over Tintern Abbey, where legend has it that the Devil tempted the novice monks
More importantly though - March 4th sees the launch of the 100 Stories for Haiti book.
I have felt like a giant to be involved with this book but also very interested to see a very dynamic and positive writer roll the whole idea along with such passion and single-mindedness. Greg McQueen is a very shiny bloke indeed. But it was an interesting process, being asked initially for submissions that encapsulated HOPE. I looked at my back catalogue. My writer friends looked at their back catalogue. What did we find? Lashings of death, distress and dirt. Dyfunctionality oozed out of us. No happy endings. Not the type of work that would have been suitable for this sunny, optimistic book. Ill-fitting for a country with more real horror than anyone could imagine.
So we all had to write something new and I was not the only one who struggled not to take a story into darker waters. I was so unsure of it when I finished, because it didn’t feel like ‘me.’ It reminds me of a very scary (very important) agent I spoke to a few years ago. I had then won a short story competition in a woman’s magazine, with another story that I gave a happy ending, because resolution seems to suit those type of magazines.
You can’t have someone raped and dumped in a cellar in a woman’s mag.
‘I liked this because it was mature,’ the agent said. ‘I am sick of people always giving me dyfunctionality because they think it is literary. It gets boring.’
I listened and `I thought ‘oh dear’ – because darker is more satisfying and to me, more resonant. The dark side – when we actually live in the light in our real lives – is more interesting. Of course if we were serial killers by day, we might well enjoy writing about kissing bunny wabbits and crossing old people gently across busy roads. You see even now I am imagining a scenario with an old person being dragged screaming into traffic. That is the way my brain works in fantasy. In real life, I am gentle. Kind, even. I transfer indoor ladybirds to rose bushes and feel guilty returning late library books.
As writers, we by nature have split personalities. Never even just the two. We inhabit other skins, sins and souls. But I learnt something in writing the Haiti story. I am not a jolly writer. In real life, as I always say, happy endings are desirable. I hope this book contributes in a small way to that shattered country. It is my way of showing love, showing concern. If I can write a happy story to help a sad country, then I am a lucky person.
Also congratulations to the very fine Tom Vowler http://oldenoughnovel.blogspot.com/ and the beautiful Susannah Rickards, for their SCOTT PRIZE win.
So March on, March. Head up, chest out.
- Julia Bohanna
- Shortlisted Bath Short Story Award 2013 Runner-up Cinnamon Press Competition 2013 WNNER: Don Louth Writer of the Year (run by Reading Writers) WINNER: Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition 2012. SHORTLISTED: Scott Prize (Salt Publishing) 2012 for a short story collection. Writer/ Journalist - assistant editor and writer for the art and books pages of Wolfprint. Most recently published in Independent on Sunday and short story anthologies: Sentinel Champions No 9, 100 Stories for Queensland, 50 Stories for Pakistan, 100 Stories for Haiti and From Hell to Eternity. In a recent writing competition, Joanne Harris described my writing as '...compelling (but quite creepy)'
- ▼ 2010 (4)
- ► 2009 (13)
Prizes and Writing Awards
- Winner Bradt/Independent on Sunday Travel Writing Competition 2012
- Shortlisted for Salt Publishing's Scott Prize for short story collections 2012
- Finalist in Brit Writers' Award 2011
- 2nd in Sentinel Literary Competition 2011
- Whitechapel Society Anthology to be published 2010
- Shortlisted for the Mslexia Short Story Competition 2009
- Shortlisted for The Asham Award 2009
- Joint winner of the Penguin/Decibel Prize 2008 - Asian Invisible. Published as The Map of Me
- Highly Commended in The National Galleries of Scotland Short Story Competition 2008
- Runner-up in Segora Short Story Prize 2008
- Joint Winner of The Lancet Short Story Competition 2007: The Resurrection Girl.
- Runner-up in Virgin Trains/The Guardian Short Story Competition 2007: A Small Revolution
- Winner of the Woman and Home Short Story Competition 2006: Ghosts of Jamaica.
- Shortlisted for The Asham Award 2005
- Runner-up in the Good Housekeeping Short Story Competition 2003
- Winner of The Sunday Telegraph Tourism for Tomorrow Travel Writing Competition 2002: Wolves of Rumania. Winner
- Winner and also Winner of Most Original Short Story in the Competition in Trowell and District Writers' Competition 2006