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Q&A | Deborah Klaassen

Deborah Klaassen

Writer Deborah Klaassen with the photo that inspired her story at the Still exhibition at Foyles in September 2012

DEBORAH KLAASSEN LIVES IN LONDON. She is a Dutch, London-based blogger, essayist, philosopher, copywriter and the author of the horror novel Bek dicht en dooreten! (Shut up and eat!). She came to Still via James Miller and contributed the story ‘How To Be a Zombie’. She’s currently writing a crime novel.

When did you write your first story and what was it was about?
I started making up stories long before I could write, and must have started writing them down as soon as I could write. My grandmother has kept one of my earliest stories in a photo album. She had given me a piece of paper and some felt tip pens so that I could draw, but instead I wrote a story about a farm.

Why did you move to the UK?
After my MA Philosophy, I discovered that Fay Weldon teaches Creative Writing at Brunel University. I figured that would be a unique opportunity to write a novel with all the guidance I could possibly need. Ergo Veni, Vidi, Vici. (I saw, I conquered, I came)

Do you find it easy to write and communicate in English? Also, do you continue to write in Dutch?
I wouldn’t say that I find it easy, but it’s no more difficult than writing and communicating in Dutch. I talk in my sleep, and according to my boyfriend, my preferred language is English.

What inspires your work? Favourite writers?
It’s the people around me that inspire me the most: the Excel Hero, the Spliff Artist or the Manager with a Heart of Gold. When I was a teenager, my favourite authors were Fjodor Dostojevski and Ronald Giphart. These days, my literary diet is incredibly varied.

You work for a London media agency as a copy writer, how do you find time to work on your writing projects? Do you put time aside every day or do you write sporadically?
I spend about three hours a day on trains and busses to get to work and back. I try to use my commute for writing, though distracting headlines in newspapers, not having a seat or dozing off when I do have a seat all are great threats. I recently won an iPad in a Vine Competition though, which is a great boost for my productivity en route.

Your story ‘How To Be A Zombie’ explores the idea of slowing down time. Is it an expression of a personal frustration of there not being enough hours in the day?
It’s actually more of a frustration with how gullible people can be, no matter how intelligent they are. And with other people’s tendency to take advantage of this gullibility.

Zombie takes a violent turn. How important is violence in your writing?
Just as important as it is in real life.

Short story or novel?
Both. Ideally: short stories within a novel. My favourite passage in Shut up and Eat! is the milk-incident, where Horrible Herman almost gets stabbed by a twelve-year-old. It’s a short story in its own right, but really adds value to the full novel as well because it shows what sort of person Horrible Herman is.

Did you enjoy the experience of collaborating with a visual artist?
I really took the time to choose the right photograph and to let it sink in before I started writing. It was very inspiring, and has made me look at photographs in a different way.

Is reading in public and performance an important part of your writing practice?
When I was still in university, I used to read books and newspapers to someone whose eyesight had deteriorated due to MS. Reading out loud was a very important part of my life, and I started doing it as well when reading difficult texts on my own. It helps understand the structure, grammar and, ultimately, meaning of a sentence. Because reading other people’s work out loud is such an important part of my life, I love reading my own work in public too. It’s an opportunity to share the story and emotions, get carried away and make sure that the ‘reader’ doesn’t miss out on the important nuances.

What are you working on at the moment?
I’m writing a crime novel. I’m afraid I can’t tell you much more about the characters and the plot yet, but I’m enjoying it.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Gosh, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you where I see myself in one year! Life is a plot full of unexpected twists.

DEBORAH KLAASSEN BLOG

‘Bek dicht en dooreten’ by Deborah Klaassen

‘Bek dicht en dooreten’ by Deborah Klaassen

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‘Still’ | Shortlisted for Saboteur Indy Lit Award

Still is shortlisted in the Saboteur Indy Lit Awards for Best Mixed Anthology. Congratulations to all the talented Still writers and many thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of the book.

Readers are invited to vote for the book, details at Saboteur Shortlist

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David Hebblethwaite’s story-by-story review of ‘Still’

DAVID HEBBLETHEWAITE is a renowned book blogger from Yorkshire, who reviews both novels and short fiction on his blog Follow the Thread. He also writes reviews for The Huffington PostStrange HorizonsWe Love This Book and Fiction Uncovered. He’s a big supporter of the short story format and since the end of September, he has reviewed every story that appears in Still – in chronological order. We’ve listed a brief excerpt from each individual review below, or you can read the full reviews here.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, Still in Anthologies

‘Still’ on sale at Foyles

And the ending is a real shock to the system. ‘Midnight Hollow’ – Mark Piggott

But, for those four pages, the author convinces you it’s all true. ‘My Wife, The Hyena’ – Nina Killham

I also love the way Blackman transforms the imagery of dirt trailing down a wall; the ending of ‘Sanctuary’ becomes as much a tableau as one of Bakker’s photographs. ‘Sanctuary’ – Andrew Blackman

Wyld  keeps the atmosphere suitably unsettling, and any hope she offers comes with its own nagging doubt. ‘Corridor’ – Evie Wyld

There’s a neat reversal in this story, and I like Frey’s use of the staircase as an image and venue. ‘The Staircase Treatment’ – Myriam Frey

The choppy rhythms of van Mersbergen’s prose underline the sense of unease, up to a rather chilling end. ‘Pa-Dang’ – Jan van Mersbergen

The titular rose acts a symbol of the family’s hope – something to keep growing in the garden, and not to remove, for fear of angering the landlord. ‘A Rose For Raha’ – Ava Homa

Royle tops it off with a dark twist at the end. ‘The Blind Man’ – Nicholas Royle

It’’s amusing to read, but also leaves one with the nagging thought of just how easily that sort of thing could happen… ‘From the Archive’ – James Miller

Details of ‘real’ life are heightened through their transformation into Hershman’s science-fiction idiom, and the ending is especially poignant. ‘Switchgirls’ – Tania Hershman

Rechner makes good use of sensory detail to convey the stuffy and intense atmosphere of the theatre. ‘The Playwright Sits Next to Her Sister’ – Mary Rechner

Hussein reveals the full possibilities only gradually, and even then keeps the truth ambiguous. ‘The Tree at the Limit’ – Aamer Hussein

Just as Beard’s piece blurs the line between fact and fiction, so it effectively portrays lifts as simultaneously useful and threatening spaces. ‘Life Under Inspection, Do Not Touch’ – Richard Beard

This is a nicely paced story, with an effective sting in its ending. ‘Odd Job’ – Preeta Samarasan

What follows is a snappy, rhythmic jaunt through the cacophony of modern life. ‘Noise’ – James Higgerson

 ‘A Job Worth Doing’ is more a celebration of what has passed. ‘A Job Worth Doing’ – SJ Butler

Rose captures a certain stiff formality in the voice of his protagonist; and the range of details focused on creates an effective sense of diffuseness. ‘Sere’ – David Rose

This piece is both a portrait of the emotional value that books can have to someone; but it’s also a poignant tale of loss… ‘Morayo’ – Sarah Ladipo Manyika

A well-constructed mosaic of events from Justin Hill’s life, with recurring themes of memory and going through doors. ‘Waiting’ – Justin Hill

What gives this story its edge is a clear sense that this is a false hope, and that the protagonist can’t move on in life because she won’t let go of the idea. ‘Ten A Day’ – Jan Woolf

‘Opportunity’ provides an elegant and broad examination of its issues. ‘Opportunity’ – Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Its supernatural twist gives this tale a very effective chill. ‘In the Dressing Room Mirror’ – Claire Massey

I like the ambiguity in the ending of this piece, and especially how it illuminates the narrator’s character. ‘The Owl at the Gate’ – Nicholas Hogg

Definitely a story that carries greater force than its length might suggest. ‘Still’ – SL Grey

This absorbing read takes a shocking turn. ‘How to Make a Zombie’ – Deborah Klaassen

A fine note on which to end the anthology. ‘Winter Moon’ – Xu Xi

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Photographs from ‘Still’ launch event, 26 September 2012 at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London

THANK YOU! Negative Press London says a BIG thanks to all the writers (reading/non-reading) who were at the Still launch event in the Gallery at Foyles, as well to all the people who came for what was a very lively entertaining literary evening.

The readings went down a storm and the audience really enjoyed the mix of writing and related photography. It was a special treat to hear the stories read out with such passion and panache. Q&As, discussions and mingling followed!

Thanks to the writers who were there: SJ Butler, Myriam Frey, Tania Hersham, James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen (thanks for setting up Facebook event), Claire Massey, James Miller, Jan Woolf and Evie Wyld.

And thanks to the writers who were there in spirit: Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Ava Homa, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Jan van Mersbergen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan and Xu Xi.

A big cheers to Paul Savage for a fantastic bar service and to David Owen at Foyles for five star help and organisation.

All photographs by Roman Skyva, www.romanskyva.com

If anyone has any photographs they want to share, email to info@neg-press.com (max file width 1000px at 72dpi, if possible)

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‘Still’ exhibition at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London – until 30 October

The Green Room

‘Still’: an exhibition of photographs and excerpts from related stories

An exhibition of photographs from Still by Roelof Bakker has opened at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB.

Twenty large size photographs of vacated spaces at Hornsey Town Hall are exhibited in two separate spaces: the Café on the first floor and the Gallery on the third floor.

In line with the approach of the literary art book, each photograph is accompanied by a brief excerpt from the related story with the writer’s name and story’s title included.

‘STILL’ AT THE CAFÉ ON THE FIRST FLOOR, FROM 18 SEPTEMBER TO 30 OCTOBER
With excerpts from stories by Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Ava Homa, Claire Massey, Jan van Mersbergen, James Miller and Evie Wyld.

‘STILL’ AT THE GALLERY ON THE THIRD FLOOR, FROM 18 SEPTEMBER TO 30 SEPTEMBER
With excerpts from stories by Richard Beard, SJ Butler, James Higgerson, Nicholas Hogg, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Preeta Samarasan and Jan Woolf.

Justin Hill, Waiting, from Still Negative Press London 2012

Excerpt from ‘Waiting’ by Justin Hill to accompany the print ‘The Green Room’

The book itself was launched at Foyles on 26 September in the Gallery with a literary event including readings by Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, James Miller (with Jan Woolf) and Evie Wyld as well as a screening of the video film from the project with other visuals.

FOYLES EXHIBITION DETAILS

Negative Press London and Foyles have also launched a short story competition.

NEGATIVE PRESS LONDON AND FOYLES: SHORT STORY COMPETITION

EXHIBITIONS SPECIFICATIONS
20 C-type prints from negative film with film information borders, size 50cm x 50cm, framed. 20 plagues with story excerpts mounted on foam board.

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