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Zoe Lambert Interview

Posted on 15 December 2006. © Copyright 2004-2024 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to short story writer Zoe Lambert

Tell us something about your background.

Mostly, I write and publish short stories. I have just published a short story sequence with Comma Press in Ellipsis 2, with Jane Rogers and Polly Clark. I am interested in the borders between short stories and longer works, so I am working on a longer short story sequence.

I lecture part time on the Creative Writing MA at The University of Bolton. It helps my writing as I am constantly thinking about and discussing writing. I am also in the final year of a PhD at Manchester Metropolitan University on British Womenís Short Stories. It links to what I write, and I get to spend every day reading short stories, but as Iím in my final year, and changed topic half way through I am writing my whole PhD in one year, so its taking up all my time.

How did you start writing?

My gran recently unearthed a book of poems I wrote and illustrated when I was six or seven. They were about cows. At high school I remember I wrote a spoof detective story, where the evidence was a Victoria Sponge and a story about a murderous deputy head teacher. I was lucky because my school pushed creative writing and I realised I loved it. I knew I wanted to write, somewhere in the future, (if I wasnít going to be a florist specialising in dried flowers or a violinist). It was really at university that I began writing a lot, as I took a course in creative writing, and published a story in the University magazine about homeless children who live in sewers in Moscow. It began with ĎIím not getting in that holeí. I spent a year in Florence, teaching English and writing, but my stories were all over the place. A year later, I got a place on the MA in creative writing at UEA, where my writing continued to be all over the place. At that time I worried a lot about my writing instead of actually doing it.

Who are your favourite writers and why?

I am influenced by a lot of contemporary women writers. For the short story form Iíve looked to A. L. Kennedy and Jackie Kay for voice and Iíve been influenced a lot by Ali Smith for form and structure. Margaret Atwood. Iíve cut the end off a story, like Chekov, and that seemed to work wonders.Also, Etgar keret, for his bus themes.
W.G Sebald, who was my tutor at UEA. I think he left an impression on all of us. I look to his work for a kind of ethics in writing about someone elseís experiences.

How did you get your first agent/ commission?

After my MA I was working on a novel, but I couldnít finish it. I was really struggling. Looking back, my writing, my ideas, my stories didnít fit its parameters. When I returned to Manchester, I was put in touch with Commaís editor Ra Page and later submitted stories to the Comma anthology Bracket and other Manchester based magazines, and then Comma asked for submissions for Ellipsis 2.

What's the worst thing about writing?

How you invest so much of yourself in it. Whatever itís about, it is intensely personal. After a while I learnt to distance myself from it.

And the best?

Even though writing is, for me, always personal, the best thing is when I feel I have communicated an experience, someone elseís perspective Ė a teenager who is partially deaf, a Sudanese asylum seeker. And the pleasure of creating an aesthetic whole, the story.

Tell us what kind of responses you get from audiences\ readers.

Sometimes I have communicated something to readers and given them someone elseís view on the world.

What was your breakthrough moment?

For ellipsis, I realised that all my stories were set on buses or had moments on buses. Ahhh, I though. Thatís what they are about. Buses. That is how they are linked. Iíll put them all on the same bus.
About this time I also realised that the short story form suited how I wrote and what wanted to write. To make a big generalisation, I wasnít interested in the developmental notion of character that structures a lot of novels, but the transient, sometimes momentary glimpse at characters in short stories that enabled me to write about stasis, absence, loss.

A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
Click here to learn more about becoming a member.

Comments by other Members

Nik Perring at 00:56 on 16 December 2006  Report this post
Great interview. Thanks for sharing. All the very best for your PhD and your future writing.


Moonshoe at 11:31 on 18 December 2006  Report this post
Thanks for a very interesting interview. I really like the idea of bus stories, I am constantly struck by the strange little moments that only seem to happen on buses! Good luck with the PhD and whatever happens next.

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