We caught up with Jarred McGinnis – winner of the Gold prize for Fiction in the 2013 Creative Future Literary Awards – to talk about the relationship between images and the written word, his proudest moments as a writer, and what makes a good story.
You’re the co-founder of The Special Relationship – a literary variety night which showcases a mix of authors, poets, comedians, film makers, illustrators and ‘anyone else who knows how to tell a good story.’ What do you think makes a good story?
Part of the reason I started the Special Relationship was that every literary evening and reading I tried to attend was not wheelchair accessible. So I started my own and made sure I was somewhere accessible. I often say ‘Live literature hates the disabled’ but it’s probably worse than that. Live literature doesn’t regard the disabled, full stop. I know that wasn’t the question but if that sentence shames a few organiser of events than my work is done.
To answer the question, there are some many people who have answered this in so many places. If you want an MFA in Creative Writing for free, I recommend the New Yorker’s Fiction podcast. What you get is great writers talking to a very professional editor about what makes certain great short stories great. Another good place is Brighton’s-own Damian Barr’s The Literary Salon podcast. You get the same plus Damian’s louche and dulcet tones. I’d trust them more than any waffle I’d write.
I realise I still haven’t answered your question. I’m a terrible interviewee. I’ll try harder on the next question.
In addition to sharing your writing online, you also collect and share strange and unusual images from all over the web. What’s the relationship between the visual and the written word for you?
Okay, I can do this one. I’m very much wired for imagery. I think in images, images become scenes and scenes become stories. The hard part is recreating those stories into words. When it is done well; it’s a wonder.
I’m also very much a writer of the Southern Grotesque (American South Southern, not Hove) tradition. You can see that in the things I’ve picked out in http://wickedtomocktheafflicted.tumblr.com/. I have no idea if I’ll write a story about the image of a cop chasing a beautiful woman holding a pig but I’ve thought about the story behind that image more than is reasonable. N.B. The cop stole the pig in the first place. As a reader, I am always attracted to writing that creates compelling imagery in my head and it tends to be the imagery that lingers the longest. I can conjure the grocer’s death in Germinal as vividly as the day I read Zola’s words years ago
In addition to winning the Gold Prize for Fiction in 2013, you’ve had short fiction commissioned by the BBC and have had pieces published in journals in the UK , US and Ireland. What’s been your proudest moment as a writer so far?
The BBC experience was wonderful and I’ve recently helped the production company that commissioned my piece to read the submissions for this year’s The Time Being series. When Sweet Talk Productions asked me to read submissions, it felt like a graduation of some sort. They’re good folk.
However, I would say my proudest moments have been more private. It’s when an author whose work you know, respect and love, comes up to you and says, ‘I liked that story of yours’. Publishing is the means to that end.
The Creative Future Literary Awards offers both cash prizes and professional development, like mentoring and access to workshops and courses. What kinds of development do you think emerging writers benefit the most from?
This is a tough question. I know what’s helped me. Any time you are thinking about what makes good writing – both as a writer and as a reader – is time well spent. Go to writers groups and sit around with others who are thinking about what makes good writing. Submit your stories, get used to rejection and forge that girdle of steel around your heart because if you are interested in getting published, it can seem like a heartless business. I promise it is not, it just feels that way. I would also never underestimate how difficult it is to write a good short story. Most great writers died thinking they were a failure. That is how immense an undertaking it is. Be prepared, you mad beautiful fools.
On our website, we’ve tried to collect loads of writing tips and bits of inspiration to help writers along on their journey. What top tip would you offer to other writers?
I don’t remember who said it first, but I am very much in the ass-in-chair school of writing. That school teaches that the more time you spend with your ass in a chair writing, the better writer you will be. That also includes the time you are sitting there staring at the ceiling cussing, which is part of my creative process. Unfortunately for me, I don’t think it includes all time you spend on the internet looking for odd images on the net to put on your tumblr page. There is no secret. No tricks. It is hard work. If you like the work, you’ll be fine.