Sarah Passingham writes to be read, spoken or sung, but above all, she writes to be enjoyed. Her latest short story collection 'Hoad and Other Stories', Stonewood Press, was published 2014. She has published four books of non-fiction and a libretto, and her stories have appeared in journals including The London Magazine, Stand Magazine, Brittle Star the anthology 'Said and Done', and been broadcast by the BBC. She won the Julia Fitzgerald Award for short fiction in 1996. She is currently the short story columnist for Brittle Star Magazine, and has recently completed a family memoir, 'Red Stilts' exploring the changing natures of identity, legacy and loss. www.sarahpassingham.co.uk
Sarah Passingham in 60 seconds
When did you start writing?1991 seriously, but I've written almost as long as I could read - so, probably as a child at home in Suffolk.
What do you love about Short Stories?Short stories are to the world of prose, what a snowflake is to a snowfield. A novel will entertain and get you thinking, but look at a short story carefully, and you hope to see something of unique and wondrous beauty; every element is there for a reason, supporting the whole, but it is what's left in the mind after the reading is over that's the crucial test. Read Alice Munro or Grace Paley if you don't believe me.
Do you write in other forms?I'm a bit of a Jill-of-all-Trades and have worked as a freelance journalist and librettist, as well as a creative writer in the accepted sense. I've spent the past seven years working on a memoir about living with the fall-out of my father's polio, so that has ruled out almost everything else recently, apart from poetry - mostly prose poetry - and short stories. I guess you'd call me a memoirist and literary writer. And I love writing about food.
What distracts you from writing?Almost anything if I'm in a treacly bit of my writing, and almost nothing if it's going like a dream. However, if my family needs me, they always come before anything.
Outside of writing, what are your other passions?Living in the heart of the watery Norfolk landscape is as much a hobby as a lifestyle. I run cross-country several times a week. I walk with friends by the rivers as much as I can. I garden and observe the wildlife. I love narrative in film and books, both of which I share with my younger daughter to my great delight. I used to be a sporty tennis player and a jazz lover, but sometimes things have to give to make room for something new. I have a Graphic Design degree and art is a great pleasure. As is cooking - I'm so sad, I watched every one of the Great British Bake Off episodes!
What is your favourite book?As a child it was 'The Little Grey Men'. At the time, I would have done anything to write like "BB" - Denys Watkins-Pitchford. Perhaps that's what consolidated my love of the countryside.
Who are your favourite writers?George Grossmith for lightening the spirits and having a good laugh, I find Barbara Kingsolver's precision with language inspirational; and recently it has been Mark Cocker's wildlife writing that has inspired me.
Where is your dream location?I'm not an experienced traveller, but it's hard to beat the Norfolk Broads.
What one item would you put into Room 101?The trivial answer is: goat's cheese. I cannot understand why anyone would want to be near it, let alone eat it! The serious answer: underhand behaviour - be it in a political and global sense, or from an individual or parochial event. I find it abhorrent
Do you have any advice for new writers?Read, read, read. And when you're done reading, read some more. There is nothing like being taught by those you admire.
Work by Sarah Passingham:
Water off a Duck's Back
Except for the duck, the wedding is unremarkable. It’s a celebrity marriage, but all the usual things happen, and in more or less the correct order. The caterers are too early, and the flowers are late. The best man—who is not Rowan’s best man but the brother of the bride—pretends to lose the ring. Gloria has a last minute fight with her mother over her intention to honour, but not to obey in her wedding vows, and one of the bridesmaids eats too many chocolates and has to go home. It’s at the reception that things start to go seriously awry. And almost everything can be blamed, at least in the beginning, on a small, male mandarin duck. "The duck had been there since the early morning. Gloria told Rowan that she had seen it from her bedroom window. She’d woken early because the new wind-chimes in the Versailles potted orange trees had disturbed her. The duck had been swimming in lazy circles on the turquoise surface of the swimming pool and, apart from noting a pleasing splash of bright orange against dark aubergine that might have a place in a colour scheme somewhere in their new ranch house, she gave it not a moment’s more thought. This was a mistake ..."
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