Scottish writer Lesley Jackson grew up in a jute mill compound, on the banks of the River Ganges just outside Calcutta, and moved to England at the age of fifteen. She worked in publishing and trained as a teacher before leaving to spend ten years in Singapore and Hong Kong, as a freelance journalist and author. Since her return to the UK she has worked in adult education, teaching literacy and creative writing, and completed an MA in Writing at Sheffield Hallam University. She has published three nonfiction books and a series of short stories and poems. She now lives with her husband, four cats and a parrot, in western Scotland. You can find her on her blog, 'Books, Stories, Poems' at lesleyjjackson.wordpress.com
Lesley Jackson in 60 seconds
When did you start writing?1969 In Calcutta, India, after a teacher read out one of my stories. I started typing my autobiography when I was eight. I still have the single page it covered. I told my parents I wanted to write when I grew up but they told me that to write I had to have “done something worthwhile”.
What do you love about Short Stories?Short stories seem not unlike poems to me; vivid snapshots in time that reveal layers of meaning and hidden truths. I especially like the ones that do not really end; that go on resonating in your mind after they have come to a close. I love all the different ways they can be crafted. Novels seems much more formulaic to me. I also love they way they are often built around a small event or germ of thought that leads to change and concern marginalized characters that falter on the cusp of that change. I believe they don’t need to entertain as much as offer meaning. So much more seems to matter in short stories than in novels, the tone, language, suggestion, association, symbol, and it all has to work together. There is no room to hide anything that doesn’t work.
Do you write in other forms?I write non-fiction and a lot of poetry but I also enjoy writing prose poems and flash fiction.
What distracts you from writing?My four cats and African grey parrot; the colours in the landscape around me, especially the hills which appear to move as the weather changes. And untidy rooms.
Outside of writing, what are your other passions?I have quite a few: Poems in which I can lose myself, animals and birds, islands and hills, wild gardens, quilting and embroidery and meringues. Recently I have begun collaborating with local artists, writing poems to accompany their work and I am really enjoying this. I get to learn about art, make new friends and improve my poetry.
What is your favourite book?Robin Hood, the old classic story written I think by Howard Pyle, was the only book I read over and over when I was a child. It was the first time I realized that reading could excite me and make me cry. That in fiction I could follow someone through their whole life, to old age and death. The ending, when the dying Robin asks Little John to shoot an arrow into the forest and to bury him where it lands, has stayed with me my whole life.
Who are your favourite writers?Virginia Woolf, though my favourite authors alter as time goes by:, Janet Frame, Jayne Ann Phillips, Tim Winton, TC Boyle, Tobias Woolf, Alistair MacLeod and right now I am full of admiration for Nik Perring's flash fiction in ‘Not So Perfect’.
Where is your dream location?Where I am now, in my own tiny study, in the middle of a wild garden in the remote west of Sco
What one item would you put into Room 101?Cooking. Why cook when you could be doing something much more exciting, like writing a poem? It won’t disappear ten mins after you have spent time and effort creating it, either!
Do you have any advice for new writers?Listen for your voice. Begin by writing as you speak, to avoid what I call ‘puffed up’ writing (straining for literary effect). Get to know that voice, write about what matters to you, find your own take on the world through your chosen form. Be clear and don’t be afraid to use simple words. All the rest will improve with time and practice but your voice is your unique stamp on your writing and will show up in all the forms you use.
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