Jenny Curtis, whose story ‘Roots’ is published in issue 5 of Lucent Dreaming, is an undergraduate student studying Creative Writing at the University of Winchester. Her work has been featured in the Resurrection Trust anthology and on her parents’ fridge. Jenny’s greatest ambition is to write lots of books and (truthfully) introduce herself as an author at social gatherings.
So, what inspired your piece ‘Roots’ and how did it find its way to Lucent Dreaming?
I heard about Lucent Dreaming’s short story competition and I thought ‘this sounds like a fun chance to write something weird.’ The competition theme was ‘discovery’ and I wanted to play around with the idea of a character searching for self-discovery and home. From the start, I knew I wanted to have a naive protagonist who sees this post-apocalyptic Earth in a rose tinted way. Things were never going to end well for her. But I also wanted to keep things vague and have a bit of dramatic irony, so the reader realises that she is being eaten by some mutated Venus Flytrap while she climbs into it quite willingly and unaware.
What does writing and art mean to you?
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember; it’s always been a part of me. Even if I’m not working on anything, I’ll still make up stories in my head of people I see or odd scenarios I imagine. In a way, it’s my escapism. When I’m stressed, I notice I write more as it’s almost a form of stress relief (as well as being an excellent form of procrastination!). Although writing has always been important to me, there are times in my life when it’s had to be sidelined for work or education, as the world sees to view it as a hobby not a vocation.
Now I’m studying Creative Writing at the University of Winchester and I get to make writing my priority. It’s stressful as hell (it’s still a degree after all) but being able to share my passion for writing with other people at the University who feel the same way has been a gift.
It sounds cheesy, but I’m one of those people who believe that books can change the world one person at a time. Being able to make someone laugh, think, or take time out of their day to enjoy themselves is why I write.
What are you most excited about right now and what writing/creative projects are you currently working on?
At the moment, my life is dominated by my looming dissertation. I am excited about it (something I need to continuously remind myself of); but I’m a perfectionist and I want this to be the best piece of writing I’ve ever produced. The story explores the unusual friendship between a university student and an 85 year old woman. I would say the main inspiration for this piece is Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine because of the incredible exploration of quirky characters. Although I hate my dissertation at times, I still love it and really believe in it. Hopefully one day I’ll manage to expand it into a novel and get it published!
Tell us about some of your favourite books or art you’ve experienced – of all time or more recently. Why are they favourites?
In tied first place, my favourite books would have to be The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Books that tend to stay with me are ones that are character centred and explore the world from a fresh perspective. The Long Way is sci-fi like I’ve never read – for one thing it’s not dystopian! It’s realistic characters and scenarios in the future on beautifully created alien planets. Seriously, Chambers’ world building is superb. Eleanor Oliphant is more of a social realism novel (which is what I tend to write, Roots being an exception). I love how clever Honeyman is with her writing and her characters. My more recent top reads are This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay and The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. An author that I’m excited to start reading is Sally Rooney – that’s what I’ll be spending my Christmas break doing when I’m not writing!
What advice would you give those who want to do what you do?
Make time to write. I can’t stress this enough. If you really want to write and improve your skills, you need to make writing a priority. Another thing is to always approach things from a different point of view. That’s the best way to get ideas, or so I’ve found. For instance, one of my other short stories is about sustainability, so I thought what if I have this character who’s dedicated to sustainability in her life and work (moral) but her job is a contract killer (not so moral), which is how The Sustainable Murderer came about.
Something that I’ve found has really improved my writing in recent years is having people to workshop with. The more you write, the better your writing will get, but it’s so helpful to have other writers to give you advice and edits. Showing stuff to friends and family can be useful, but being able to workshop with other writers who understand the creative process is invaluable.
Where can people see more of you and your work?
You can find me on my website http://www.jennycurtis.co.uk, screaming into the void on twitter @jennyymrc, or on my art/words instagram: an.open.journal
You can read my short story, The Sustainable Murderer, in Resurrection Trust Anthology, and Roots in Issue 5 of Lucent Dreaming.