Kath Mckay teaches creative writing at the University of Hull. Her stories have won awards in the Bloomsbury, Fish International and Ilkley Literature Festival short story competitions, and have been broadcast on Radio 4. They appear in anthologies by publishers such as Arc, Crocus and Kingston Press, and in magazines such as Red Ink, and Metropolitan. She has had several Arts Council Awards for short stories. Articles on short story writers Flannery O’Connor, Tim Winton and Ron Rash are in Thresholds short story magazine. She has also delivered papers at conferences on Liverpool Irish short story writers, William Trevor, Flannery O’Connor, and Hull writers. Kath will have a new poetry collection, Collision Forces, out in 2015, and in 2014 published a short poetry collection telling the Bees with Smiths Knoll. She has also published a novel with the Women’s Press, and a full poetry collection with Smith Doorstop, which won the Poetry Business competition. She has gained awards in other poetry competitions. Her poetry is in Mslexia, Magma, Brand, Eborakon, the Rialto, Smiths Knoll and other publications. She did post-grad study in Creative Writing at Goldsmiths, and has taught for Goldsmiths, various University of London colleges, Leeds University, Bradford University and the WEA. She has also mentored writers in Africa, and has worked with Finnish writers on a tri-lingual publication. At present she also works on collaborative projects with the Humber Writers, published by Kingston Press.
Kath McKay in 60 seconds
When did you start writing?4 Liverpool, as soon as I could write.
What do you love about Short Stories?The resonance, the way they pulsate and keep giving meaning. The shock to the system, the 'ah'.
Do you write in other forms?Poetry. A novel. Reviews. Articles.
What distracts you from writing?Reading the paper, emails, reading, anything if I let it.
Outside of writing, what are your other passions?Watching films. Cycling. Swimming. Dancing.
What is your favourite book?Good Country People by Flannery O'Connor, or The Turning by Tim Winton
Who are your favourite writers?Flannery O'Connor, Tim Winton and Ron Rash
Where is your dream location?No particular place, although a swimming pool is always handy
What one item would you put into Room 101?Those train announcers who repeat everything twice and tell you to remember to take all your belongings. They make me want to scatter mine everywhere.
Do you have any advice for new writers?Read, write, read, write.
Work by Kath McKay :
Medium High Gusset
The first time Leila was about to have sex with Norman he asked her if she would do something for him. Here we go, she thought, preparing for whips or wanting her to p**s on him. Men were so predictable. ‘Put your swimming costume on,’ he said. The costume was damp and smelt of chlorine. A Nike black all in one, medium high gusset, sports back, neoprene no nonsense number, it chafed her vagina. Hard making love in such a thing. But it seemed to do the trick for Norman. He became quite red in the face. At the last minute she unrolled it, as if it was an especially tight condom. That episode should have warned her.
When I saw that the Mammy was appearing in our town I wanted to go and see her. I was beginning to forget what a mammy was, but I knew that to have one was important to a boy. The teacher used to show us pictures of mammies in a book. She said mammies were always kind and rosy cheeked and held your hand. ‘A mammy is someone who belongs to you,’ the teacher said. All I remember is a smell.
When she was seventy four my mother began corresponding with an elderly Scottish widower called Robert who was working on a maths problem. She got a ticket to the university library. A tiny woman, my mother: young people towered above her. ‘But they showed me how the computers worked, how to scan in books,’ she assured me on her regular phone call. I imagined they treated her as a member of a rare species, surprised to find her in their territory. She soon spent days immersed in Californian maths and physics journals. Amongst the formal jargon were spattered Californian idioms: gotten, freshen up, dude.
As if she was Coco Chanel
It was after midnight in the communal bathroom that I caught Aggie wearing the English woman’s pyjamas. Aggie was a thin, blonde haired woman in her fifties, with an attitude. Every day I passed her as she smoked long, expensive looking cigarettes outside the front door of the hostel. She never acknowledged me, although I’d stayed at the hostel often, sometimes for two weeks. At breakfast, she sat by herself in the corner, and tilted her body against others. Held herself proudly, but trembled at times. Always the same corner. If anyone took Aggie’s place, while they were up collecting breakfast she’d move their crockery and cutlery to another table. No one ever argued.
When Dee began asking people to repeat themselves, and started saying ‘What?’ a lot, it took her a while to realise what was going on. With the kids left home, she was enjoying herself again. Sex was not a problem. Once you let men know you were available, they weren’t fussy. The best ones were short-sighted, and didn’t seem to mind varicose and thread veins, hairy chins and dyed hair. Plus the fact that you couldn’t see further than them seemed to be an advantage. They just wanted to know that the important parts were in working order. But when she couldn’t hear the phone in different parts of the flat, and missed the beginning and ends of words, she knew that joy was departing from her life. Birdsong. The doorbell. The music on Radio 3. The concerts she went to twice a year by the sea. The nuances of people’s words. Missing the joke. A gradual descent into silence.
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