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Lamplands literary journal for children Interview

Posted on 18 September 2013. © Copyright 2004-2018 WriteWords
A longer version of this interview is available to WriteWords Full and Community Members.
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WriteWords talks to Lamplands, a literary journal for children

• Tell us a bit about Lamplands; history, ethos, aims, people involved

Lamplands is a literary journal for children; www.lamplands.co.uk
We’re looking for fiction and non-fiction with a focus on place and environment: rootedness, passing-throughs; urbanity, rurality, wilderness. Five stories an issue are to be gathered along with illustrations and maps. The stories must detail real places and the maps, provided by the writers, will track them. We like the idea of a reader following the map in “real life” and visiting the locations of a story as if the characters had just stepped out of sight.

Lamplands started as a sort of notion to encourage the writing of more short stories for children, stories crafted with as much care as anything in the pages of Granta or Ambit. That ain’t fighting talk just --- it’d be nice, you know? I lived in Whitechapel at the time Lamplands sputtered into being, and there was this tower block over towards Shadwell --- the way it rose above the trees always made me think (I’m sorry) of a castle in the clouds. I wanted to bring together stories that captured that sort of second-glance magic. China Miéville’s London in Kraken is a place we’d love to map for Lamplands.

We’re putting together Lamplands in our evenings but we’re excited. When we have five sufficiently remarkable stories we’ll publish issue one. We think that that’ll be before long. We’re not rushing because there’s no rush --- we’re really enjoying the submissions. There’s been a slight drop-off since we introduced a map and photo requirement but we’re aware that it’s an unusual request and expected it to limit responses. As a challenge, we hope it fires up the people it always would have.


Where does the name come from?

Lamplands is also the title of a novel I’ve been working on but’ve never even come close to finishing. In the story it’s the name of a sprawling house on a marshy tidal island. I took it from a farm near the village my mum’s folks come from in North Yorkshire. I was so pleased with the name I thought I’d use it for the journal in case it never saw light of day with the novel.


Who's on your wish list and why?

Well, there are quite a few... if death weren’t a barrier I’d ask Tove Jansson to write for us --- W. G. Sewald, too. My favourite children’s writer died recently, Sam Youd, once famous as John Christopher. I think his Sword of the Spirits trilogy is some of the most remarkable children’s fiction to be out of print. Devastating books.

Amongst the living, I’d love Simon Armitage to come up with something for Lamplands but haven’t found the courage to write to him yet. He’s probably too busy. Anything can be rendered folklore in his hands --- in poems like “The Tyre” ordinary places and objects gather myth like bodies give off heat --- inexorably. His prose is effortless. He shows how things become wonderful just through being written about, and it doesn’t even take especially fancy words.

I’d also like to see if Alice Oswald is interested. Her book, Dart, about the river in Devon and the lives connected to it, is enchanting. “I'm / trying to talk myself round to leaving this place, / but there's roots growing round my mouth, my foot's / in a rusted tin.” The world becomes fantasy without shucking its realness. Very exciting.

Most of all, I’d like get Alan Garner on board. The post-war streets of Manchester in Elidor, Alderly Edge in the Weirdstone books, that Welsh valley in The Owl Service; these places are more real to me than some of my actual childhood memories. In his book Thursbitch a Pennine valley finds godly form in the shape of a huge bull. I love that sort of transformation and look for such things in the prose we’re picking for Lamplands.


What excites you about a piece of writing-

I like writing that’s pared right back --- writing that couldn’t lose another word and still make sense. Sentences calibrated for lyricism and efficiency. I think the efficiency of poetry can be achieved in prose, too. Findings by Kathleen Jamie proves this, as well as A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, and The Iron Man by Ted Hughes.

I’m kept interested by anything that doesn’t say as much as it could, though I seldom have the restraint myself. I would argue to do away with any adverb in my writing or yours and am happy not to be fed a character’s motivations, or even their thoughts. I like characters that move through a story like glaciers shaping valleys or like a tripped waiter snatching at the tablecloth and taking the crockery with him.





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



Terry Edge at 09:33 on 19 September 2013  Report this post
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