Tag Archives | still

Nina Killham interviews Roelof Bakker

Still writer Nina Killham interviewed Roelof Bakker for her blog a couple of days ago and asked him about the background to Still and Strong Room and how Negative Press London came about. Read her post, here
Roelof Bakker 16 years old

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Still, still being reviewed

Writer Sarah Manyika reading Still Negative Press London 2012

Sarah Manyika reading Still at home in San Francisco

It’s wonderful to see Still is still being shared, and as a result also being reviewed. Two intelligent reviews appeared in November in the Short Review and in literary magazine Wasafiri.

Sara Baume, the Short Review, 13 November:

‘Inviting writers to compose stories as a specific response is risky business for an editor, but Bakker has been spectacularly lucky with his twenty-six contributors… Not one photograph shows a person, yet the text brims with people. Each story is an acknowledgement that even the slightest detail is the trace of a life.  As a whole, the collection explores how every keyhole and windowsill and lampshade give rise to a plethora of associations and memories…This collection is the first print publication by Negative Press London and it sets a high standard for a sort-of new genre. Perhaps for the first time in my life, I just didn’t have the heart to scribble notes or fold the page’s corners down; Still is simply too attractive and unique a book.’

The Short Review

Sunil Chauhan, literary magazine Wasafiri, issue 76, published November 2013:

‘Loss, isolation and loneliness are never far from the page, the inability to forget a frequent thread. Many of the authors use the town hall as a muse rather than a setting. Sharing a tartness of tone, these tales are quizzical, haunting, occasionally abrupt but mostly as teasing as the accompanying images, often concluding with a lingering shot of pain.’


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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.


‘Bek dicht en dooreten’ by Deborah Klaassen

‘Bek dicht en dooreten’ by Deborah Klaassen

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Find ‘Still’ in Foyles on Charing Cross Road

A rainy day, perfect for a bit of browsing and a coffee in a bookshop…

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, Still in Anthologies

If you’re near Charing Cross Road, pop into Foyles and you can find Still in the anthologies section on the ground floor…

And in the art section on the second floor…

Foyles Art section third floor, Still

Also, the first floor café serves a pucka flat white (actually one of the best in London in my humble opinion). And there’s an exhibition of photographs from Still, too.


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Q&A | David Rose

David RoseDAVID ROSE LIVES IN ASHFORD. He was forty when his debut story was published in the Literary Review. He has since had around three dozen stories published in literary magazines and anthologies, as well as a mini-collection, Stripe. His first novel, Vault, was published in 2011 (Salt Publishing) and a new story, ‘Puck’ has just been published as a chapbook by Nightjar Press. The story he’s contributed to Still is about the ongoing decay of language expressed in three pages of pure bliss.

Has writing always been a part of your life?
In my teens and twenties I wrote sporadic poetry, as many do, but with no serious intention of being published. Much later, in my mid-thirties, I suddenly had an idea for a short story. I had never written fiction before, so I wrote it more from curiosity.

At the time, I was working with a woman whose daughter worked with Graham Swift’s wife, and recommended his work; it was around the time he was writing Waterland, an extract from which had been published in Granta. I then read his first novel, The Sweetshop Owner, which I admired. Through that tenuous connection with him, I wrote to him, enclosing the story. He was diplomatically encouraging, and I decided to take it a little further.

I joined a Creative Writing workshop in Staines, an evening class, which continued for some years with a nucleus of writers re-enrolling year to year, giving them/us the confidence to be objective in our criticisms of each other’s work. I enjoyed it very much.

It was at that time that I had my first story published, in The Literary Review, which had then recently come under the editorship of Auberon Waugh (I still have his hand-written letter – in blue fountain pen ink – accepting the story, after an eighteen month wait).

Sadly, I had less time to attend, and the nucleus was breaking up, so it all came to an end. I carried on writing on my own; there is no writing community I’m aware of in Ashford – it is quite small.

In a workshop/evening class, naturally the emphasis is on brevity, to give everyone a fair hearing, hence poetry and short stories were the staple (and I think the discipline of poetry is one most novelists would benefit from). But I think that the short story is the form that most suited me anyway; you can take far more risks.

So the short story was my natural form, and I had around four dozen published over the years in magazines here and in Canada. But when one attempts to interest publishers/agents in a collection, the question is always: are you working on a novel? I became so fed up with this that I started writing a novel just in order to say, yes, I’m working on one, here in the meantime is my story collection.

Needless to say, it never worked; I finished the novel, Vault, and after showing it to a couple of publishers, put it in the drawer. It was Nick Royle who, in a casual conversation which touched on novels, asked to read it, and passed it on to his agent before then taking on the role himself.

While we were still attempting to place it, he suggested writing a longer novel, which might be easier to place, since publishers buy fiction by the yard in Britain. I started one, carried on, finished it, and that now is in the drawer, where it will remain.

Vault David Rose Salt Publishing 2011Vault was written in the Staines branch of Pizza Express, do you still go there to write?
As Vault was a new genre, I needed a new writing discipline, which is where Pizza Express came in. I worked close by and went there for lunchtime coffee, with free biscuits, courtesy of a plump waitress who felt – maybe out of annoyance – that I needed fattening up. I would use that break to read, but decided to write instead, every workday writing something, however unusable, then revising and planning in the evenings. The discipline of regularity helped; it’s like riding a fixed-wheel bike – the momentum keeps you going.

I no longer work in Staines, and am no longer writing.

Do you spend a lot of time perfecting a story? When do you decide you’ve finished and you’re happy?
All my work was done initially in long hand, in pencil, to keep the draft as fluid as possible for as long as possible (it hardens once it is typed), and would be revised, then left for a few weeks, then revised again, until I became fed up with tinkering and would type it up, correct it and send it out. There is never a point where you feel satisfied with a story, only bored.

Assembly Hall Staircase (Flyer)

Assembly Hall Staircase (Flyer) © 2012 Roelof Bakker

Why did you select this photograph?
I chose the OkeyKokey photograph immediately because it struck a nostalgic chord with me. Whole worlds, epochs, are summoned up in such phrases, and are lost with the loss of those phrases. I find myself at an age where remarks, words, allusions – to such things as threepenny bits or Blakeys – are met with blank stares. So I find the whole issue of language decay melancholic. And having to master computer skills made me feel even more alienated by the jargon.

This is, I think, at the root of the problem of old age: not physical age but cultural alienation, and the fact that the elderly, being no longer thought of as useful, are no longer thought of; they become invisible.

Do you often work with artists and/or use visual materials as inspiration?
‘Sere’ is the first story to be commissioned as a response to a photograph, but many stories have begun as responses to paintings, or in one case an African sculpture. The first, The Literary Review story, was the result of visiting the exhibition of Picasso’s sketchbooks; more specifically, from the catalogue introduction by Claude Picasso, expressing his feelings at seeing in galleries things he had grown up with as a child – including his toys, turned into sculptures by his father.

Other stories had similar genesis, in one case, a series of Munch paintings arranged at random, as a way of breaking the habit of plot. A more recent example, to appear in Unthology 3 in November, describes a guided tour of an art gallery for the blind, again based on a series of paintings (on postcards) arranged to form ostensibly a history of art.

And the new Nightjar Press story, which I at first refused to do, as I don’t usually write in the macabre, came from another Picasso painting, the composition of which was based on a visual pun, that of a jar as a memorial of a friend of Picasso’s of that name (Jarra).

Music too has sometimes been the starting point, and a second story in Unthology 3, probably my last, concerns the real-life case of Joyce Hatto, the pianist whose husband plagiarized other recordings on her behalf. It is a poignant story (the real one), and the fictional version has an appropriate valedictory feel.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am no longer writing.

David Rose Puck Nightjar Press




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