The Monthly interviews New Zealand writer and poet, Anita Arlov – Part 2 – Consolidation

Your writing covers a number of different genres. What attracted you to flash fiction, poetry and short story writing?

I like seeing a story on one page and I like the concentration of Flash Fiction and how you can bring arresting life to your words and ideas. I think it is a style where you can write a short narrative arc without relying on too much description. It’s about what’s happening, unsaid. I do think that Flash Fiction and Poetry are not that far apart. You can write as little as 50 words for a piece of Flash Fiction. Of course you can write as many as 1000 words.

I conduct workshops and I think people really enjoy Flash Fiction. It’s a quick hit- sometimes startling – that thrives on multiple reads. They enjoy that you can move into that style quite easily if you have been writing poetry. For me I think my poetry often has an element of a narrative approach. I do like to start with a story, or a thought or emotion. So perhaps my approach to each style of writing is similar and that’s why I can move between styles quite easily.

How did you go about developing your craft?

I think it was reading a lot, reading as much as possible, different writers, poets, and working out what I thought was good work. I then aimed to absorb some of those elements, the rhythm, the use of language, the way a thought was developed, and how stories were conveyed.

I think getting material published gave me a lot of encouragement to keep going. Because I was building up the information flier I knew where you could submit work to, and I really wanted to get my work out there.

Did you go to writer’s groups?

I did go to a couple of workshops in Continuing Education, and Poetry Live on a Tuesday night, and other spoken word events right at the beginning. They were very good and I felt that I was on the right wavelength after I attended those events or gigs. I also went to one day workshops at writer’s festivals with professional writers. Mainly though it was committing myself to reading and learning that way.

International Page and Stage – Writers and Poets from the Southern Hemisphere – You can see Anita reading at 55 minutes in to the event

What about the ideas that you investigate through your work?

I have an approach which comes from a quote from Richard Price who said, “Don’t write about the horrors of war, write about the child’s burnt sock on the railway track.” I start with a small thing and radiate from it. I will think about events which happened to me, or I will imagine situations and I will work from there. I might marry together, a scene of a Van Gogh painting, with a scene of a waitress who works in a cafe he frequented, and a fairy tale like the Little Mermaid, and that will start me off writing a story. I tend to work from a visual approach, and for me it is often memories or the collapse of several disparate things into a singular piece of writing.

Where to now?

I am working on a series of different pieces at the moment which may end up as either works of Flash Fiction or they could end up in a book of poetry.

See more of Anita Arlov’s work at the links below

artist forms link
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