Sally Gander is a writer and Creative Writing teacher. Her work has appeared in Hinterland, Litro, Backlash Press, Porridge, and The Lincoln Review. She has taught on the prestigious Creative Writing program at Bath Spa University, and currently teaches at the Open University and Advanced Studies in England. Sally can be found on her Website & blog and on her Instagram. You can find her piece in Epoch issue 4, Transitions: The White of the Robin’s Eye
‘Transitions’ is such an evocative theme, what compelled you to submit for this issue?
I was in the process of redrafting a long-form essay that explored issues around body modification, and how easy (and perilous) it is to judge someone by their appearance. The story hinged around me getting tattooed by my daughter, and at some point, I realised there was a much more personal story within the wider narrative.
I pared back the commentary aspects and focused down on our relationship, and saw that the theme of ‘Transitions’ was at the heart of the story. It depicts how my relationship with my daughter changed through her transition from a head-strong teenager to a talented artist, as well as my own transition from a mother to… what? I confess that I’m still figuring that out!
Do you have a routine for writing? If so, what is it and how has it evolved?
I’ve always known that I work best in the mornings, fresh of mind with a cup of good strong coffee. I like silence, so when my children were young and the house was noisy, I went to the local supermarket car park and wrote in my car. I couldn’t do that in the cold of winter though, so I trained myself to work in other places too, such as busy coffee shops. Now I can work anywhere if I need to.
Do you find that CNF comes easy to you as a writer and/or what is challenging about it?
Creative nonfiction does come easily to me, but I think that’s because I spent years writing fiction. I learned how to construct a scene, how to create vivid pictures on the page, and how to follow the gradual swell of the story. I was in my late forties when I began writing nonfiction, old enough to be able to reflect on who I was, and who I wanted to become. I think the gap between these two states of being is often where nonfiction resides.
What’s challenging is writing about other people. I’m comfortable giving exposure to my own actions, thoughts and feelings, even if (especially if) I’ve fallen short in some way. But other people have a right to privacy, so trying to depict the truth while respecting their needs can feel like I’m walking a tricky tightrope. I find having an open conversation about it is usually the best approach, and accepting someone’s decision if they say no to something.
What song is on repeat for you right now?
Blame, by Gabriels. It has a beautifully spiritual feel to it, and the voice of Jacob Lusk is so old-school. It makes me feel like I’m in a down-town jazz club, writing in a corner.