In anticipation of the release of our first podcast on Tuesday, we’re pleased to bring to you an interview with Jason Jawando, whose story Confusion will be one of three stories featured.
Currently studying an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University, Jason has been published in a number of other literary journals and magazines, including Aesthetica, Crannog, and Ranfurly Review, and in January 2018 read one of his short stories as part of the Wolverhampton Literature Festival.
We’re very pleased that Jason agreed to a short interview about his piece and his writing journey so far. If you’d like to find out more about Jason’s work, you can find him here, or can tweet him @JasonDJ
What made you start writing?
I struggled with writing when I was young, because my handwriting was (and still is) terrible. My wrist would start to ache when I wrote a lot, and I often found that I’d never quite said what I wanted to say, which meant either untidy crossings-out, or writing the whole thing from scratch. When I started using a word processor in my twenties, I found that without those physical problems I could express myself quite well. It grew from there.
Is there a personal story behind Confusion? Why did you want to write that story?
It’s an idea that I had when I was lying in bed, still half-asleep. My mind was wandering and made a connection between a few different things, which is how a lot of stories begin. Once I had the idea I felt I had to write it because it felt like it already existed somewhere, and I needed to get it down before someone else did.
How do you feel when reading and performing your work? What do you find are the benefits from doing this?
I don’t like the sound of my own voice, although people say I sound confident. Reading my own words out loud and having people pay attention makes me feel naked, but this helps understand the work. Sometimes I gloss over the ungainly moments, and the awkward phrasing, when I’m reading silently; it’s difficult to do this in front of an audience.
Tell us about the novel you’re currently working on.
It’s still in the early stages. I’ve had one false start. It will be set in Wolverhampton, where I live, and will feature contradictory versions of the same events.
What do you find, other than the word count, are the differences between writing a short story and a novel?
Most of the differences are about the word count. Pacing is the issue I’m struggling with at the moment. I think of both forms in terms of taking the reader on the journey and leaving them changed when it finishes. With a novel, I’ve learned that readers like to settle in first, get to know where they’re going and who they’re going with. I think the final effect will be the same, but there’s a lot more work in getting the reader’s trust.
You’re currently doing an MA in Creative Writing with the Open University. How’re you finding that? Is there anything you’ve learned which you’re finding invaluable?
My first degree was in English, and I enjoy literary criticism and theory: in some ways, this is a chance to explore how these things and my own writing overlap. I’ve found the focus on character the most important lesson so far. I’ve never been massively interested in character, either as a reader or a writer, but I’ve begun to see characters as a way of drawing readers in to the fictional world. Before I submitted ‘Confusion’, I rewrote it, giving a more prominent role to the narrator, for this reason.
Any tips for new writers starting out?
- Write as much as you can: I often find that when I’ve written a story I’ll get a couple of new ideas straightaway.
- Find as many places to submit your work as possible and when it’s as good as you can get it, go for it.
- Be prepared for rejection. Looking through my record of submissions, my strike-rate is about 3%, but like story ideas, they come in clusters, and I have had an uninterrupted run of 200 rejections.
Let us just end by saying a huge thank you to Jason. If you’d like to read Confusion, it can be purchased free of charge here as part of our Pamphlet, and we’ll see you on Tuesday for when our podcast goes live to the world.