Tag: interview

An interview with…Giselle Leeb

A couple of years ago when I was still an undergraduate, I found myself being taught how to do HTML and WordPress with a select bunch of other writers. Our teacher was Giselle Leeb, 47, website developer, IT trainer and writer. She’s lived in Beeston for two and a half years but grew up in South Africa. I caught up with her to find out what she’s up to and how her writing career is going.

Giselle has had 20 short stories published so far. They have appeared in publications such as Reckoning, Litro, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Mslexia, The Stockholm Review, and Firewords Quarterly among others. She has recently become assistant editor at Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice, who published her short story Wolfinia in December 2016.

The secret behind getting her stories published is to always write and constantly submit. “I write every day except for weekends,” says Giselle. “I’ve got enough short stories to try and put some into a collection, I’ve got the stories and the manuscript ready.”

For someone who usually submits short stories to publications, putting together a collection would seem like the natural progression. I ask her which publishers she has in mind for the collection.

“There’s quite a few good indie publishers, but it’s very hard to get short story collections published if you’re a relatively unknown writer.”

Giselle submits stories as much as she writes them, and doing so has revealed new things about her writing style and capabilities that even she didn’t realise. The last story she had published was ‘The Dog’s Aren’t Barking’ which appears in Supernatural Tales. She wrote it and submitted it despite it not being her preferred genre.

“I don’t normally write supernatural stories,” she reveals. “That’s the longest short story I’ve written (about 6,500 words). I was a bit unsure because it’s not my usual genre. I wasn’t sure if they would publish it but I was very chuffed.”

She describes her usual genre as ‘literary slipstream’, an area of fiction I’d never heard of until that moment. “It’s a bit like magic realism or weird tales,” she explains. “It’s a literary story setting in a real town but there’s some strange element to it.”

It’s absolutely essential to have feedback from a group

Although I write fiction and poetry, I hardly ever submit them to competitions or publications, but Giselle believes that submitting work helps with the motivation to write.

“I’ll try out competition themes and sometimes they spark something off. You can get too distracted by it, addicted,” she laughs.

She also makes use of websites that can help with tracking submissions such as Duotrope and The (Submissions) Grinder. “I’ve got about 20 stories I’m sending out at the moment so it’s quite important. It’s really easy to forget where you’ve sent a story.”

For anyone who has never submitted creative work before and doesn’t know where to start, the answer is simple: Google it.

“Look at competitions,” says Giselle. “It will always be there, it’s not like anyone is going to take it away or do the exact same stories!”

In issue 47 of The Beestonian we featured an interview with Beeston author Megan Taylor, who is Giselle’s partner. They met through both being members of the same fiction group, and had known one another two years before they got together. Giselle explains the benefits of being in a relationship with another writer.

“We write quite differently but I think we’ve got a good appreciation of each other’s work. We definitely bounce ideas off each other but it’s never rivalrous. For me, it’s absolutely essential to have feedback from a group or from Megan.”

In the near future Giselle is hoping to so some workshops with Writing East Midlands, but for now she is enjoying going through the slash pile of unsolicited submissions at Reckoning, and getting an idea of what it feels like to be on the other side.

It was announced recently that Giselle will have one of her stories published in Best British Short Stories 2017 by Salt Publishing. The anthology will be available on 15 June and is available to pre-order now from Amazon and Waterstones.

You can find out more about Giselle’s writing and publications on her website: giselleleeb.com

JM

String Theory: Carmen Flores and the Villiers Quartet

We meet 25% of an exciting new musical venture…

CarmenViolaphoto (1)

Carmen Flores isn’t the most typical Beestonian. First there’s the Californian accent, which sounds like music compared to the snuffly vowels of my East Midlands voice. Then there’s her profession: a classical musician of rapidly growing renown, and 25% of the Villiers String Quartet, a group of recently relocated musicians who attracting plaudits on the classic music scene.

From a musical family – her mum taught piano and her dad ran the local church choir – she started on the violin at age six and never looked back. She was recruited to San Diego’s Youth Symphony Orchestra. “Being part of an orchestra is incredibly enlightening. It’s like being part of a strange UN, with different states with different interests having to work together to ensure common goals. It requires huge discipline, selflessness and more than hard work. It’s a slog.” Graduating with a degree in music, she set out to pursue a music career. “You do everything you can to cut your teeth. You have to absorb so much”.

She then met Dan, a Beestonian working in London, when the two were both visiting the Philippines. They fell in love, and looked to find somewhere to be together. California’s loss was the UK’s gain.

“I moved to London in 2005 after meeting my husband,” she explains. “It was tough at first: I had no connections in music but would audition relentlessly.” Eventually she was offered a role in the Birmingham Royal Ballet Orchestra, a role she still has, but it was meeting three like-minded souls in 2011, violinists James Dickenson and Tamaki Higashi and cellist Nick Stringfellow, that she found her true calling. They bonded over their love of chamber music and decided to form a string quartet. The Villiers Quartet was born. “A quartet is essentially a conversation between four people. It isn’t easy to find that right mix, that balance, but we have found it”.

Their talent was rapidly picked up on. Offers to play concerts, festivals and even BBC Radio 3 flooded in, as well as rave reviews for their debut CD The Complete Quartets of Robert Still. It might sound strange that during these days of rave reviews and burgeoning attention, they decided to leave London.

“The other members, for various reasons, wanted to move to Market Harborough. So I moved to Beeston 3 years ago. My husband Dan decided he wanted to set up his own business and move back to where he grew up. It’s a place to bring up children, a kinder, calmer lifestyle than London.”

Nottingham has proved fascinating. There is a real creative buzz right now, and we’re loving being part of it”

The move provoked a change of emphasis. “We thought about location; how does it influence your work? If you look at the Lindsay Quartet, you can clearly hear the way their Sheffield setting seeps into their work. Getting out of London meant a chance to explore a new vernacular. Nottingham has proved fascinating. There is a real creative buzz right now, and we’re loving being part of it”. Yet it’s not a one-way street. What they take in influence, they reflect in a desire to bring music to communities, areas that previously might be denied such art. “Community is important. We want to teach others, become a community quartet and inspire people to pick up an instrument.” A residency at Nottingham High School followed, and a new CD release of Peter Racine Fricker’s Quartets has received great reviews. They also provided the music for the recent TV adaptation of DH Lawrences Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which is possibly as Nottingham as it comes.

We’re dead lucky to have such a talented bunch of musicians in our midst, and their ambitions to be an integral, active part of Beeston’s cultural fabric isn’t just testament to our present state as an ideal home for creatives, but for a future of beautiful music, elegiacally sweeping just up the road from the Vic.

http://www.villiersquartet.com/

Stephan Collishaw: Interview

We caught up with Stephan to find out about his latest novel and how Beeston played a role in his writing career…

Front Cover

If you’d have told a young Stephan Collishaw that one day he would be a published author he probably wouldn’t have believed you. Yet his third novel The Song of the Stork has recently been released by Legend Press, and he’s set up Noir Press, which is the only publishing house in the UK dedicated to Lithuanian Literature. Not bad for a man who failed his GCSEs twice.

Collishaw, 49, who currently lives in Colwick, grew up in Basford and attended Ellis Guilford, and despite failing his exams, he did leave school with a love of literature.

“They introduced me to Guy de Maupassant, which is the only thing school did for me,” he reminisces. “My poor mother was at her wits end and got me onto a Youth Training Scheme back in the 1980s. I went to work at a bookkeepers and lasted there 6 months until I got sacked.” However, this proved to be a crucial moment in his life.

“At that point in time, I decided I wanted to be a writer. So I started reading as much as I possibly could,” he says, “but when I was at work the cleaning lady caught me going to the toilets with Jane Austen and cup of tea.” We laugh at the memory. “She reported me to the manager who didn’t think it was appropriate, and sacked me.”

In 1995 he decided to go on a whim to Lithuania after teaching for two years in Radford, and that decision has made his life what it is today. “I’d gone with the start of a novel stuffed in my backpack,” he says, “and when I got there, life was far too much fun to be writing a novel. I ended up getting married to a Lithuanian.”

Now, he has three children, speaks Lithuanian and visits the country regularly. “When you explore a country, one of the things you want to do is explore the writing,” states Collishaw. “It’s almost impossible to actually read Lithuanian novelists,” he adds.

It was this that became the driving force behind Noir Press, which he set up about a year ago. “Until this moment in time,” he tells me, “there was only one living Lithuanian novelist in translation in the UK and that’s the one I published. It’s the only one.”

So far, Noir Press has published Breathing into Marble by Laura Sintija Černiauskaitė which won the European Union Prize for Literature. The publishing house is also set to release three books this year: The Easiest by Rasa Aškinytė; Shtetl Romance by Grigory Kanovich; The Music Teacher by Renata Šerelytė.

“All the books that we’re publishing have been award winning or in the top five books in Lithuania,” he tells me. “The concept is not to do more than one of each writer so that we build up a showcase. This is Lithuanian fiction as it stands at this moment in time.”

I ask him about his latest book Song of the Stork, a historical fiction novel set during the 1940s amid the Second World War which tells the story of a fifteen year old Jewish girl, Yael. While on the run, she meets a village outcast who is mute and they form a relationship.

“Before I’d started writing it,” explains Collishaw, “I hadn’t thought about how you would develop a relationship between two characters who can’t speak to each other. But in some ways that was a powerful, energetic part of the novel because I had to think how I was going to develop that relationship rather than falling back on normal tropes of writing.”

Although he doesn’t live in Beeston, Collishaw does have links to our town particularly with the Flying Goose Café along Chilwell Road. “I’ll be doing a reading there,” he reveals, “and at the moment Hilary [Cook] is very kindly selling my books in preparation for the talk.”

Beeston was one of the first places I was taken seriously as a writer

It’s not just recently that Flying Goose has played a part in his writing career, as he explains: “Years ago I did one of my first ever readings as a novelist at her café back in 2001-2, so for me it’s a special place. That was when I first felt as though I was a proper writer and had any kind of identity as a writer.” It’s not just the café he likes to visit when he comes to Beeston. Jen Glover who set up the micro-brewery A Pottle of Blues is one of his former colleagues. “We worked together for many years at a school in Radford and it was enough to send us all off crazy,” he laughs, “so for Jen it provided the impetus for her escaping from teaching and living a dream of hers; opening a bar is the most appropriate thing she could possibly have done.”

The Beeston-based publisher Shoestring Press also holds a place in his heart, not only because he considers John Lucas a “godfather of literature” but because his first published collection was a Shoestring edition.

Collishaw explains: “I entered East Midlands Writers Awards and won. They published it with Shoestring, so I was first published by a Beeston publisher and it was the first time I’d ever made it into a proper publication.” He adds, “Beeston was one of the first places I was taken seriously as a writer.”

Stephen will be at the Flying Goose Café on Wednesday April 12 where he will be reading from Song of the Stork.

To find out more about Noir Press and upcoming publications, visit: www.noirpress.co.uk

Jade Moore

Chris McLoughlin: Interview

PHOTO CREDIT: Jeiran Ganiyeva

We met a Beeston performance poet who is breaking down the boundaries of mental health…

Breakdown

It’s very rare that I cry after reading a book or poem. But one Beeston-based performance poet succeeded in opening the floodgates when I read one of ten poems in his collection Breakdown. The man in question is Chris McLoughlin, 28, who has been writing for two and a half years, ever since he moved to the area.

His chapbook was published in July 2016 by Big White Shed, a Nottingham-based business run by Anne Holloway, which acts as an enabler to help poets such as Chris realise their ambitions, such as writing a book.

After reading his collection, I couldn’t wait to meet him and it turns out we have a lot more in common than expected, i.e. we both have anxiety. I begin by asking him about the subject matter of his poems. He says, ‘They predominantly cover the mental health spectrum and grief.’  It is by nature a personal subject, so I asked him what his poems mean to him, in terms of their content and writing them. He tells me that ‘they are a way for me to process what I’m going through, but in performance and by publishing they are a way that I hope other people can process what they are going through.’

As a Beeston poet myself, I wondered whether he has ever been inspired by our home-town. He says: ‘I write about Beeston quite a lot. You know the concrete steam towers? When you get the train in just before the station? I’ve written about them loads. Every time I reach them I’m home, and they’re the signifier.’

At this point we turn to the subject of performance. Chris tells me that he has a background in drama and is a trained actor. He says, ‘I’m more of a stage poet than I am a page poet. The difference for me is when you read a powerful poem, it will tend to reach people for longer but not in the same way. Whereas when I perform, I perform to people not just at them.’

I walk into the audience and get them to cram around me as tight as they can, and it’s trying to teach them what anxiety is.

Chris has performed at a number of festivals including Luton International Carnival, Nottingham Poetry festival, and Greenwich & Docklands Festival. He provides me with an insight into how someone expressing mental health problems transfers that to an audience: ‘There’s one poem called Ghosts which I do at festivals,’ he says, ‘and usually you tend to get quite a lot of “traditional” poets who read and look like professors. But in Ghosts, I walk into the audience and get them to cram around me as tight as they can, and it’s trying to teach them what anxiety is.’ I tell him what a great idea it is, to combine his acting skills with being a poet, and he recalls a performance he did at Das Kino in Nottingham. ‘They’ve got a big mirror at the back which you perform in front of,’ he tells me, ‘and that’s so horrible! If I perform in front of that, everyone is going to be like “whatever”, so I got everyone to turn around and face the mirror, and I faced the mirror and said, “this is what anxiety looks like.”’

I tell him I need to see him perform.

To tell me what message he wants to convey to his readers through the written word he begins by explaining the writing process of his book’s blurb: ‘We [him and Anne] took three hours to write the blurb, and it’s two sentences. It’s because we didn’t know what we meant, and it was always stuff like “Chris McLoughlin is a blah blah blah” and in the end I just wrote “he kinda wants you to buy this book, or whatever, but really he just hopes these poems help you feel less alone”. And that’s exactly it, I just want someone to hear the poem and go “oh, me too.”’

I was meant to interview Chris for the last issue, and touch on his role with the Mouthy Poets, a poetry collective that run weekly workshop sessions to explore poetry in terms of performance. But in December 2016 they split up, so I decide to ask Chris, who was their Artistic Director, about the reasons behind the split. He tells me ‘we got caught in a catch 22 where our funding got so low we could barely afford to pay our staff, and we needed our staff to be doing funding stuff. Eventually we decided rather than impact our participants negatively we’d say “we’ve done a lot and that’s that.”’ He informs me that the average running course of an arts organisation is five years, and the Mouthy Poets had been on its sixth year.

It’s not all bad news, however, as participants from Mouthy have branched out and created new projects such as a writing collective and an editing circle. Chris adds that although he doesn’t see Mouthy coming back together, he wouldn’t rule it out completely.

After reading Breakdown I’m eager for more, so I ask him if he is working on anything at the moment. ‘I’ve just finished my first full collection, called Underneath the Almond Tree. It covers my life from three months before my mother passed away from breast cancer up until the present day.’ As he wants his collection in the hands of more people, he’ll be sending it off to publishers such as Faber and Carcanet, and it’ll be another two years or so until the collection is out.

But for now, you can buy Breakdown from Chris’ website:  http://www.pijaykin.com

Or see his featured poem below, taken from his upcoming collection.

 Dodo

I want to be big, flightless, and tasty
for explorers. When I walk into a room
parrots will squawk Who’s a pretty boy
then? I want a beak, for pecking,
grabbing, but not chewing.
I don’t want to chew anymore.
I want to swallow things
whole

or leave them alone.

Chris McLoughlin

Jade Moore

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