Cadenza Magazine Interview
Posted on 12 April 2005. © Copyright 2004-2021 WriteWords
WriteWords talks to Zoe King, writer and co-editor of Cadenza magazine|
Tell us something about your background.
In terms of Ďcontentí, Iíve probably covered most areas of writing. My first published piece was a short feature in the Daily Mirror, when I was 16. After that, I dabbled in features for years, never quite realising that it was something that might offer me a living. At the same time, I was reading, and writing, a lot of poetry.
I published my first book, Cash from your Computer, in 1996, with How-To Books. Later, after I started BuzzWords magazine and became involved in fiction and poetry editing, I self-published a tiny book Ė Ahead of the Game, which dealt with short story and poetry competitions. That book, small though it was, taught me a great deal about the business of writing. I sold over a hundred copies in a very short time, and that made me realise that there were a lot of writers out there hungry for help and advice.
I Ďcaughtí the short story writing bug in 1997 after forming Diss Writers, and realising that I was the only person in the group who wasnít writing fiction. Although I was fond of writing stories as a child, the later me had always said I would never write fiction, would never know what to write about. Once I began though, I came to understand what a rich form it can be, and how ideas for fiction beget themselves, if you allow them to.
Having turned to short stories, and succeeded with them, Iíve now returned to non-fiction, to editing, and to teaching. Iím currently editing a first novel by an Australian writer, and am also in the planning stages of a book based on an online teaching project in which Iím involved.
How did you start writing?
I canít remember a time when I didnít write. As a small child, I would lose myself in books, and also in my own fantasy world. Books and daydreaming gave me an escape from a difficult childhood, and later, that fantasy world began to translate itself into story. I have a very early memory of a story I wrote being picked up on by a teacher at primary school. She told me she wanted to talk to me about it, and would do so after the school holidays. But when I went back to school, she didnít appear. It seemed she had gone to teach elsewhere.
As a teenager, I loved to escape, used to travel to different places on my own, purely for the adventure. I also read very widely, but almost always non-fiction, and that gave me an appetite for knowledge, which lead naturally into feature writing. My first published piece was about pre-Beatles Liverpool. It wasnít entirely complimentary, and gave me my first taste of audience response.
Tell us about Cadenza- ethos, what you publish and why etc
John Ravenscroft and I took over as co-editors of Cadenza two years or so ago. The magazine had been successful for its founder, Jo Good, but her family commitments were such that it became impossible for her continue with it.
As editor, Joís ethos had been to look for Ďstrong original voices, for writers who were not afraid to take risksí, and we saw no reason to alter that. Although John and I vary in our approach; he is very much into effective Ďstory tellingí, while I can often be moved purely by language, we do tend to agree upon what constitutes a Ďgoodí story.
As for poetry, while it might have seemed natural for me to take over as poetry editor, given my years in that role with BuzzWords, I really felt I had moved away from that, and didnít want to revisit. So, following the departure of Fiona Curnow, we have recently appointed a new poetry editor, Bill Conelly, an American currently living in the UK. Given the different approaches to poetry in the two countries, it will be interesting to see how our poetry content develops.
Because both John and I are fascinated by the whole business of writing, weíve also established the pattern of including interviews with better-known writers in the magazine. In our last issue, I talked to Joanne Harris about her approach to her work, and the forthcoming issue includes an interview with Jim Crace, conducted by Jai Clare.
Who are your favourite writers and why?
My favourite writers? Goodness, there are so many! Favourite classics authors include Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens, Dostoyevsky. Their charm, for me, lies in their ability to wrap me in their fictional worlds. They each have their different strengths, of course. I love reading Jane Austen while Iím listening to Mozart. I find such joy in her work in that circumstance, as though the combination takes me to an entirely different plane. Hardy and Dickens appeal to the social historian in me, and Dostoyevsky conjures such atmosphere in his books that I almost feel as though I must have lived in Russia in a former life.
With regard to modern writers, I read fewer novels these days, but I really enjoyed Monica Aliís Brick Lane; such a rich tapestry, and I also enjoy Jim Craceís work Ė his use of language sometimes leaves me breathless. Pushed to choose a favourite book, it would have to be Harper Leeís To Kill a Mockingbird. Everything about it, its characters, its theme, its approach to language, sings, for me.
Itís fair to say that Iím passionate about short story nowadays, and when Iím not reading biography, I tend to read short stories Ė Raymond Carver, the master, is a particular favourite, but I also love Andre Dubusí work, and that of Nathan Englander, and Chekov, and ohÖ lots of others.
What kind of writing are you looking for at Cadenza?
Being specific, we are looking for short stories that Ďworkí, that fully engage the reader, that donít provoke the mental Ďred editor pení. Stories with strong and involving characters, with whom the reader can empathise, can care about. And effective use of language is essential, to convey richness, subtext, some sense that the story has life beyond the words on the page.
Do you have a submissions policy?
Because we were so overwhelmed with strong publishable stories, and have now cut our publication schedule to just two issues per year, we have adopted a policy that all short stories should be submitted via our twice-yearly competitions.
With regard to poetry, detailed submission guidelines are available on the website, but I canít stress enough, how important it is to read a copy of the magazine before submitting. We get so many submissions which are simply Ďnot Cadenzaí. The only way to get a flavour of our magazine, or indeed any magazine, is to buy at least one copy, preferably more, and read it. Why writers submit their work to publications they have never even read is entirely beyond me.
How did you get your first agent/ commission?
I got my first agent prior to submitting my synopsis to How-To Books. In fact, I saw a feature in Writers News, in which the agent concerned talked of her search for fresh ideas for the series, so I wrote to her immediately. I had been flirting with the idea of the book for some time, so looking back, it seems almost serendipitous.
She contacted me just a few days later, told me she really liked the idea, and wanted to float it before the publishers. They agreed with her, asked me for a detailed synopsis, and twelve months later, the book appeared. Iíve been asked to revise and update it several times since, but Iím a great believer in Ďmoving oní, so that isnít likely to happen.
What's the worst thing about writing?
For me, itís not being able to say Ďnoí when Iím asked to do things, then finding that Iím swamped with work. I love new challenges, love the energy that comes with tackling them, so of course Iím prone to jumping into things while theyíre hot, just in case they disappear. When I grow up, Iíll probably learn to curb that tendency.
And the best?
The best is being immersed so totally in something I absolutely love. I adore being with writers, dissecting the process, challenging them, having them challenge me. They happen so rarely, these Ďorgiesí, but when they do, I treasure them; they work to top up the well-spring of who I am as a writer.
Tell us what kind of response you get from audiences and if/how this affects/influences your writing.
In 2001, I was a panellist at the Geneva Writersí Conference, talking on the opportunities the web offers. I had talked to small groups before, but this represented a major challenge in that I had an audience of international writers, and was surrounded by well-known speakers. I was terrified and excited in equal measure, but I found the experience hugely rewarding because people really did respond, both to my teaching, and also later, to my reading of my own work.
More recently, I spent a day at Sussex University, talking to creative writing students about short story, getting published, and so forth, and at one point, I found myself watching ZoŽ King in action, observing the studentsí response. And at that point, I knew I had probably missed my vocation. I should have concentrated on teaching.
I mentioned above that Iím currently involved in an online teaching project, and again, Iím finding it so rewarding, partly because the results are so tangible, and also, because Iím learning so much myself. So yes, itís fair to say that response affects my writing. In this case, the effect is very visible; I began the project as an experiment, to see whether I could translate work I had done in small face-to face-groups into an online situation. I have been so astounded at the results, and at the positive responses from the writers involved that Iíve now decided it should form the basis of a book.
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