In Conversation with Sara Baume

SaraSara Baume erupted onto the literary scene last year when her story ‘Solesearcher1’ took the 2014 Davy Byrnes Short Story Award. She subsequently won the Hennessy New Irish Writer Award 2015. Her short stories, which have been described as ‘beautifully shaped, vividly imagined and realised’ have been published in The Moth, The Stinging Fly and the Irish Independent as part of the Hennessy New Irish Writing series. Born in Lancashire, Sara grew up in Co. Cork where she still lives with her two dogs, a one-eyed terrier named Wink and an enormous, sand-coloured lurcher. Her debut novel spill simmer falter wither was recently published by Tramp Press.

Sara will be interviewed alongside fellow short story writer and novelist Cormac James on Saturday 30th May at 6pm in St John’s Theatre.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about the route you took into writing?

A. I specialised in sculpture, and so it was hard to maintain that practice outside of the college setting, without access to tools or studio space. I did a long internship in the Douglas Hyde Gallery which transformed many of my ideas about art and its world; I started writing articles and reviews and found it was reasonably easy to get them published. Because fiction is what I really love to read, the writing inevitably tapered into short stories. In 2009 I was accepted into the MPhil in Creative Writing in TCD, and I guess that is what fixed and focussed my efforts.spill

Q. Are there any other writers/artists in your family?

A. My grandfather both made sculptures and wrote and, I think, was one of the founders of the Crafts Council of Ireland. I’ve an uncle who is very involved in theatre and another who is a brilliant painter.

Q. Who was your greatest influence growing up?

A. To follow on from the last question somewhat, the biggest family influences weren’t the artists or writers; my grandmother was a voracious reader and she passed this on to my mother and to me. Lots of influential figures have come and gone, an excellent tutor in college, the director of the gallery where I did my internship, but my mother, who is an archaeologist by profession, is most definitely the stable source.

Q. You won the 2014 Davy Byrnes Award and the Hennessy New Irish Writer Award 2015. How important are literary awards for writers do you think?

A. Immensely. The vote of confidence they represent is priceless; a green flag to go on.

Q. I read somewhere that you find writing hard work. Is this still true and if so, how do you motivate yourself?

A. I still find it hard, but I also realise how lucky I am to be allowed to do something which challenges me; most parts of life are so mundane. Of course it’s easier once you have a publishing deal; you don’t have to question the point of it all every day. I find it helps to break up my writing day rather a lot, mostly with reading.

Q. Do you have a favourite time or place to write?

A. I’m usually at my sharpest first thing in the morning; I have a big kitchen table in the living room where I write, pushed up against a front window which faces to the sea, so i get to watch gulls and herons and white horses during the ‘staring into space’ breaks.

Q. spill simmer falter wither has a dreamlike, poetic quality to it. Do you spend lots of time redrafting?

A. Yes, the first draft is the fastest one, most of writing is rewriting.

lolly stick cargo ship

Q. There’s an image in the book of ‘cargo vessels coasting in and out of harbour, containers heaped like toy building bricks.’ You also made a small sculpture of a cargo ship. What is your fascination with cargo ships?

A. Great question! That ship is just a maquette, made out of lolly-sticks, for a bigger work I never realised. Because I live on the coast, lots of people around here have model sailboats in their windows and I wanted to make a model cargoship, for difference, but also just because I find them strangely handsome; slow moving, multi-coloured sea-mammoths, the mass of life they represent.

Q. Do the initial ideas for your stories usually come as images or as words or is it a mixture?

A. Images; there can be no words without them, though they become words almost immediately. John Berger said something like: we explain the world with words but words can never undo the fact that we’re surrounded by it.

Q. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re currently working on?

A. It’s a tricky second novel. Substantially different to spill simmer falter wither, disjointed, lots of art.

Q. Have you visited Listowel Writers’ Week before? What are you most looking forward to this year?

A. Yes! For the past couple of years I’ve made a point of driving from Cork. It’s such a privilege to be in the programme this year, after so many events in the audience. I’m particularly looking forward to the Stinging Fly readings on Saturday afternoon, as well as Per Petterson.

For further details and to book this event please click here

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