Our new Q&A series with facilitators at and friends of Big Smoke continues with John Kenny, who teaches a variety of classes with us, including speculative fiction workshops and editing seminars.
What do you like best about teaching creative writing?
That moment when you feel a group of participants really engage with the topic being discussed. There’s an indefinable quickening or excitement that manifests itself and from then on it feels more like a collaborative exercise. It has never felt like work to me; I’m always interested in meeting new writers, and the process of teasing out the finer points of the art of writing feeds back into my own work, which I think is the better for it.
What are your own favourite and least favourite things about writing?
My least favourite thing about writing used to be the physical process of writing a story. I couldn’t wait to finish something and didn’t really enjoy the journey. That changed a few years ago when I stopped fretting over every word and sentence and became less anxious about how other people would perceive my work. The actual sitting down and writing has now become my favourite thing about the process. I feel energised when I’ve had a couple of hours to work on something. I guess my least favourite thing about writing now is the waiting to hear back on a submission, but I combat that by constantly moving on to something new and keeping my back catalogue of stories in circulation.
What writing and/or editing projects are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished a story for an anthology of contemporary literary supernatural tales, which I’m hoping will be accepted. If it isn’t, I’ll grumble for a day or so, lick my wounds, and send it elsewhere. Then it’s back to the third draft of my novel, which focuses on the theme of homelessness. On the editing front, I’m halfway through editing a novel for a client and I’m putting the finishing touches to a Best of Albedo One anthology, which covers the first decade of the magazine’s history and features 13 stories I’m very excited about seeing the light of day again and finding a new audience.
What are you reading right now?
Just read Sophocles’ Theban Plays and am halfway through Brian Aldiss’ Jocasta, which is a retelling of the whole Oedipus tragedy from the perspective of Oedipus’ wife/mother. I was surprised at how readable the Theban Plays were and plan to read more of the ancient classics. Jocasta is an interesting take on the story and well worth checking out. Aldiss is one of my favourite writers, still at the top of his game in his 80s.
What was the last book you read that stuck with you?
Gosh, I’ve quite a few that have stuck with me for years. The Gates of the Alamo by Stephen Harrigan, The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, the list is endless. The most recent book that has lodged in my brain and won’t go is Oblivion, a collection of stories by David Foster Wallace. The stories were hard going at times but ultimately rewarding. I started off questioning his stellar reputation, but now realise he was something of a genius.