Women on the Edge – Interview with Linda Cracknell What is it about “being on the edge” geographically, socially, emotionally that drew you to the event? The characters I write about are often marginalised or voiceless in some way, or become outsiders by force or choice. The psychological edginess of certain places also really interests […]February 27, 2015
What is it about “being on the edge” geographically, socially, emotionally that drew you to the event?
The characters I write about are often marginalised or voiceless in some way, or become outsiders by force or choice. The psychological edginess of certain places also really interests me. My novel ‘Call of the Undertow’ has a cartographer from Oxford exiling herself to a sparsely populated area on the Caithness coast, the edge of Scotland. For ‘Doubling Back’ I was fortunate to walk in Kenya with writer Philo Ikonya whose political activism and refusal to be silenced has led to exile from a country she strives for. Exile often removes writers from their known audiences and publishers, but can also sometimes provide new openings. Perhaps it’s the liminality of ‘the edge’ that interests me – adventure, risk and danger are possible but so is change.
How do you feel about Women’s Day in general? How have you experienced it throughout your personal/professional life?
I was a VSO English teacher in Zanzibar in east Africa in 1988-89. On International Women’s Day I was surprised when it was compulsory for female staff and students to leave our college classes and take to the streets. We made a billowing procession of black ‘bui bui’ cloaks, which are traditionally worn there for modesty, but vibrant colours and laughter escaped from underneath them, through flaps and gaps. It was great fun and brought us together in solidarity and strength. It was seen as important responsibility of political participation to mark the day. I’ve rarely marked it in such an explicit way since.
What was the first book by a woman you remember reading/having read to you?
The first book to awake me from a teenage reading disaffection was Wuthering Heights. I’ve never looked back really – those preoccupations with alien landscape, love and loss still haunt my own writing and my reading.
How do you feel about being called a “woman writer”?
It is an accurate description, but an odd one, suggesting that we’re exceptions. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone called a ‘man writer’!
How do you feel about feminism? Would you feel uncomfortable about branding yourself a feminist?
Turkeys and Christmas come to mind. Why would any person not wish to have equal opportunity in the world?
What do you hope for the development of women in the literary world within the next 20 years?
I’d hope for women’s writing to be as well represented and taken as seriously as men’s. It would be nice to think of as many men reading women as women read male authors today. Will a day come when we no longer need Mslexia magazine, Virago, the Bailey’s Prize? Also I’d hope for less marginalisation of important female voices. I was very struck by a recent piece by Sheree Mack published in ‘Earthlines’ who talks about the failure to embrace Black British women in literary ‘traditions’. She says, ‘my voice has been silent – not because I’ve had nothing to say, but because my voice has no say’. Such silences and silencing of writers whether in the UK or internationally should be acknowledged and addressed. Do we need to think in terms of a new ‘canon’?
What are you most looking forward towith regard to the event?
This is going to be a fascinating mix of writers who explore ‘the edge’ in different ways and who all reflect on female experience. I’m looking forward to listening and learning. And it’s a great opportunity for us, together, to mark this important day, and celebrate women’s literature.
Linda Cracknell writes fiction, radio drama, and creative non-fiction. Some of her words have won the Macallan/Scotland on Sunday short story competition, been shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award and the Robin Jenkins Literary Award for environmental writing.
Her first novel, “Call of the Undertow”, was published in 2013, followed in 2014 by a non-fiction book linking walking and memory: “Doubling Back – Ten Paths Trodden in Memory”.
She is also the Writer-in-Residence at Edinburgh Sick Kids Hospital.
(photo by Phil Horey)
Leading up to next week’s International Women’s Day event “Women on the Edge”, Christina from the Edinburgh office of Scottish PEN conducted email interviews with some of the participating Scottish PEN members. You can get in touch with her at firstname.lastname@example.org