Q&A with Riptide 14 author L.K. Kraus

This new Riptide blog has been created by MA Publishing students at the University of Exeter, who have been working as part of the Riptide editorial and marketing teams. This post has been written by Anjali Kurup.

It was such a pleasure for us to host so many of our contributors at our launch events for Riptide 14 across March and April.  Author of ‘Cramond Island’, L. K. Kraus was able to join us all the way from Edinburgh for our event at Kaleider Studios.  While she was in Exeter she also ran a linked creative writing workshop for thirty University of Exeter students focusing on creating a sense of place within your short stories.  We recently caught up with L. K. Kraus as a way of documenting these interactions, as well as asking her to reflect more broadly on some of her experiences of writing and publishing.

Can you start by telling us a bit about your experience of attending the launch event for Riptide 14?

Absolutely. Attending the launch was just fantastic. ‘Cramond Island’ is my first prose piece that was accepted by a literary magazine, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have had a proper celebration. That’s what I see launch events as: a celebration of the craft of writing, and of publishing, too; of sharing it with the world. Leading up to the launch, I had quite a  hectic day between getting myself to Exeter and teaching the workshop, but Kaleider Studios is such a nice space and the team was so friendly and welcoming that I started relaxing as soon as I got there. I hugely enjoyed meeting all those involved in publishing the anthology, and the other writers! I’d like to echo what Kit de Waal said in her foreword to Collisions: getting your work out there is so important, and such a boost of motivation. To have a live launch (and then, later, the online launch and the podcast, too) enhances that effect. This will keep me going for a while!

You also ran a creative writing workshop around ‘writing place’ just ahead of the launch.  How did you approach designing that workshop and what was the response like?

The workshop went great, too. I was so happy when Kate told me it was fully booked, and the room actually filled up! The response was fantastic, it was so gratifying to hear people scribbling or typing away. It was a great feeling to be able to get people to write and share something I’m so passionate about. Some participants write regularly already, but there were some who said that this was their first experience of creative writing, and that they enjoyed it, which was rather special.

I started designing the workshop by finding out who it would be for, and then just thought about what sort of exercises I would have enjoyed and profited from at that stage of my writing career. Because the backgrounds varied, I always had back-up exercises and adjustments planned in case I needed them. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but now that you’ve asked this question it occurred to me that being a sportsperson was helpful: I guess I really drew inspiration from designing a training session, where you also want to make sure that people at different levels and with different preferences can have a good session. I didn’t even need any of my back-ups, and I had so many awesome questions that I forgot to give people the exercise I had planned to send them home with. I decided on place because the organisers wanted the workshop connected to ‘Cramond Island’, which is very much centered around place.

How hard has the journey been to getting your work published? What are some of the challenges you faced initially?

Oh I think the challenges are not just initial – I think getting published never gets easy. If you want to get published, you need to submit, and if you submit, your work will get rejected. I find it helpful to carve out spaces for myself where I can enjoy the writing and get some honest and encouraging feedback, because the only way to get published is to stick with it!

What I still find difficult is how every magazine has different requirements, and it’s not always easy to figure them out. It took a while to get the hang of what is a good place to submit to, and what isn’t.

I have to say I feel rather lucky about how it went for me – I got a poem accepted somewhere fairly early on, and then Riptide chose my story before I had time to get disheartened. I’m generally very focussed on my projects and making them the best they can be, rather than where they might or might not be accepted. I’m not saying it’s not important because it definitely is, but it doesn’t help to focus on it too much.

Does this link to your decision to Hillfire Press and can you tell us a little bit about this initiative?

It does indeed! With Hillfire Press, I hope I have created such a space for a group of writers. We encourage each other and workshop together, making each piece as best as it can be and then putting them together in a beautiful anthology. It was so special to launch the very first volume at the end of May!

Hillfire Press publishes an annual anthology, and we work as a pre-determined group of writers. Each one of us publishes a new piece in each volume, so there is no traditional submissions process, just a lot of collaboration to get each one of the pieces to its full potential. We would be absolutely delighted to see some Riptide Journal friends at one of our events!

Can you tell us a bit about your writing practice? Is there a writing routine that you follow?

I wish I could say I follow a routine, but in reality, between doing research for my PhD and translating, my circumstances change so much and so often that it is hard to maintain a routine. But I manage to write anyway, and in the end, that’s all that really matters. What helps me is set periods of time where I tell myself to just write something every day. I chose a really small chunk, something that is ridiculously easy to manage as my minimum requirement, and if I turn the laptop off after that, that’s fine. Often, I end up writing a lot more, and suddenly I find myself one third into a novel. It’s important for me to just sit down and write. It can be bad at first, I can always edit it later, but I need to get something onto the page.

What are some of the books and writers that have inspired and supported your writing journey?

Oooh, such a difficult question, and I’m bound to forget somebody and kick myself for it later. Can we go back and edit this post? I was lucky enough to have books read to me as a child, and I suppose if I had to name one writer only, it would be Astrid Lindgren. Her work paired with her activism is one of my main inspirations.

I am lucky enough to have some amazing writers in my life right now : Claire O’Connor, who workshopped my first novella with me, Alyssa Osiecki, Alex Penland, Miriam Huxley and Nicole Christine Caratas. We workshop regularly. I workshop poetry with Hanna-Maria Vester and Hayley Bernier. They are all Hillfire writers, and basically everybody on the Hillfire team has a huge positive impact on my writing. She probably doesn’t know it, but Skye Wilson helped me hugely when she said: ‘things being shite is the first step to things being great.’ That’s probably the reason I don’t believe in ‘writer’s block’. In my PhD, I’m working with Allyson Stack, and during the MSc I worked with Jane Alexander and Robert Alan Jamieson, all of which helped me develop my writing a lot.

What did you learn from the experience of publishing with Riptide and what advice would you give to a writer who is thinking of submitting work in response to the recent call for submissions for Riptide 15 which speaks to the idea of ‘Breath’?

I learned that I enjoy reading my work to other people. If you’re thinking of submitting to Riptide, I would recommend submitting. The experience has been great, I felt that I as a writer and my work were genuinely valued and appreciated. It was so much fun to edit ‘Cramond Island’ with the Riptide editorial team, too. Don’t be afraid to cut that paragraph.

What is next for you as a writer?

I will keep actively making time to write. This continues to be a challenge, especially as I’ve just signed a rather exciting translation project! My priority over the next few months will be to get the next chunk of my novel written for the second-year review of my PhD. I love deadlines for making me write! Once the novel is ready, I’ll get stuck into the process of finding a home for it. I’m glad that’s still a while away, and in the meantime, I have more stories and poems (and a play!) I’m submitting.

Find out more about the work of Hillfire Press here and L. K. Kraus’s writing projects here.

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